HAVE YOU EATEN YET?
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13-14 NIV)
Recently I had the privilege of returning to Malaysia to visit my Dad, my brother and his family. If you have travelled to Asia, you will find that meals are a big thing. If you want to visit family or friends, it is most likely to be in a form of a meal. Even if you say you want to meet for coffee, there will be some food served together with it.
Here in Canada, when we meet someone in the street, we say “how are you?”. However, in Asia, whether in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Korea, Mainland China, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand or Vietnam, the greeting is “have you eaten yet?”. In fact, if you have not eaten yet, you will be invited to a meal. The Asians want to make sure that you have eaten if you have not.
Each year when I return to Malaysia, I reflect over my background and extended family. My great-great grandfather moved himself from the Fujian province in Southern China to Southeast Asia in the mid-19th century. Therefore, my family are overseas Chinese who have been out of China since the 1850’s. I have also moved from Malaysia, where I grew up, to Canada. I now live in Canada. I am a twice displaced Chinese person. If you think I have a confusion of identity, you can figure out why.
I often wonder what made my great-great grandfather move from China to Southeast Asia. When I read the history of China, I realised that life was tough in China in those days. There was violence and famine. Perhaps my great-great grandfather had to move to Southeast Asia because there was no future for him there. He moved out of desperation. If he did not move out of China, I often wonder what my plight in life might have been. Would I have even been born?
Right at an early age, I was taught that when we greet each other, we say “have you eaten yet?”. When you compare it to “how are you?”, you would say that this is a strange greeting. Yet I was taught at an early age, life was difficult where we come from. There was violence and famine. So, appreciate that we have food on the table and a house to live in. When we meet someone, we say “have you eaten yet?”. If they have not eaten yet, feed them. Make sure that your neighbour does not go hungry.
Jesus calls us to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to our dinner table (Luke 14:13-14). I don’t think he means this literally. He means that we should welcome at our dinner tables people we least expect; like the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Why? I also believe that Jesus is present at our dinner tables. He is there to bless the food and bless the people who are present. This includes the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind who come to our dinner tables.