You Owe Me Dinner!

Devotion By Lindsey Gale, CBM

A wonderful Australian co-worker in CBM recently died. Jim Stallard  had a range of severe impairments, several serious health problems, sharp insights and a gifted tongue. He wrote two autobiographical books – the first God’s Quad, and the second – alluding in the title to a disability-focussed passage in Luke 14 – (insert broad Australian accent) – You Owe Me Dinner

You owe me dinner! It’s a great phrase to open up reflection on Luke 14, where Jesus focuses on a person with a disability and calls us to a similar focus in our hospitality. The passage contains both a story of Jesus and a story by Jesus.
The story of Jesus concerns a Sabbath meal in the home of a prominent Pharisee and his important guests, into which a disabled man appears. Jesus is one of the guests, and he gives strange, counter-cultural advice to his host – in v13 he instructs him; “Invite poor and disabled people!

The story by Jesus concerns preparations for a lavish meal to come. Jesus tells of a great host who issues a strange, counter-cultural order – in vv 21 and 23 he tells unlikely and disabled neighbours; “You are invited – come!
How do we read this story today – do we feel the concrete force of its message, or do we spiritualise it?

I have been collecting sermons on Luke 14. Invariably they spiritualise this passage. 
In relation to the first story, disability is equated to any experience of misfortune, or ‘making a mess of one’s life’. As a result, the real, concrete experience of labelled disability recedes from view.

Jesus’ reference to the inability of poor and disabled people to repay favours is also spiritualised – the focus is less on that person’s reduced likelihood of owning a home and affording a big meal, and more on the intrinsically negative view that people with a disability by nature are ‘poor things’, ‘unfortunates’, not blessed and pitiable.

In relation to the second story by Jesus, preachers tend to equate the congregation with those mentioned in v23 who come from the highways and hedges beyond the town’s gates. Spiritualising again, we are understood as lower than the poor and disabled of Israel because we are Gentiles. This serves to underline the magnificence of undeserved grace, but also disconnects us from the experiences of that other set of guests in v21 – people with a disability and the poor.

But what if we don’t spiritualise? What if this story remains concrete in relation to disability?
In many cultures the stigma of disability, the realities of honour and shame, and the convention of reciprocity remain prominent and influential. Unless they have learned to spiritualise Scripture, this passage and its counter-cultural perspective should continue to speak loudly into those contexts today.
This means Christians in development have an enormous opportunity. Both personally and corporately, we can reveal something of the hospitality of God by the way we practice ongoing, concrete and personal hospitality to and with people with a disability and the poor.

Jim Stallard was known to say, “Disability is not sexy – people want to forget about it.” But when we make disability personal, when people with a disability are friends around our table, we won’t forget.

If we are forgetting disability in development, is it because we have not made disability personal in our own lives?
And if we have not made disability personal in our lives, will we act with sufficient resolve to ensure disability inclusion is mainstreamed in our development work?

Or will we be more like the church youth worker I spoke to recently, who when encouraged to adapt his program to ensure the inclusion of a camper with a disability, asked, “Can’t he just sit out?”

In what way have we sought to include people with disabilities within our work, church, lives? Lord, help us to make this personal in our lives and a reality in our organisations and churches.

Jim Stallard

Jim had been working for CBM for a number of years in the 1980s when in 1998 he was seriously injured in an accident in 1998 which left him a quadriplegic. This accident only served to increase his determination to speak out for people with disabilities, especially those living deprived communities. On the 10th of January 2012, Jim died from a heart attack.

Pray for Jim’s wife Pam, their children Jenni and Chris and grand children as they work through the pain of his death.

Pray for the voice and presence of people with disabilities to be heard and seen and included.


More than 5,000 people have been killed since the protests and unrest broke out in March 2011. Many have been displaced and fled to neighbouring countries.  This is especially terrible for those with disabilities who may struggle to travel / flee. Lord, we pray for access of aid to reach those in need – please open a way.

Pray for those with disabilities and their families as they see safety and care.

Pray for those in decision making positions that a resolution to this unrest will come.

Pray for local church to be present and a part of the response of caring or those in need.

Prayer Points in Brief

John Quinley: (Director StepAhead, Thailand): Thank God for his successful surgery  this week after his heart attack last month this week – he is now recovering in ICU. Thank you to all for your prayer support

OneVoice: please continue to engage in this week of prayer ( 26 February to 4 March 2012)

Honduras: Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Consultation: 28th to 29th March 2012. Please pray with our team and members taking part that many will engage and look into positive cooperation opportunities in response in Central America.

CCD Conference: Partnering for Change: 23rd to 27th April 2012 – please pray for all the preparation and especially for more participants to register for this important gathering.