If Jesus came for dinner…

At a church meeting a little while back, a priesthood leader was encouraging young couples to pay a generous fast offering. “You may eat really cheap meals or beans and rice or ramen,” he said. “If you make your fast offerings based on the cost of those meals, you will not be paying a generous fast offering. What would you serve the Savior if he came to your house for dinner? Would you give him beans and rice? Or would you buy a good steak and make a nice meal?” Then he encouraged us to make our fast offering calculations based on the cost of the meal fit to serve our Lord. I sat there, thinking about this. My conclusion was that, yes, I actually would serve the Savior beans and rice if he came to my house. Especially if He came unannounced. That is one of our staple meals that we eat a couple of times a week. And I’ve been making this dish for so long, that I can make it really well.

Imagine this: black beans, cooked with bay leaf and coriander, with sautéd onion, pepper, garlic, and cumin added at the end of the cooking time. Maybe some corn fried up in the cast iron skillet after the onion mess has been tossed into the beans. Brown rice. Fresh pico de gallo. Homemade salsa. A little crumbled cotija cheese. If I’ve got time, and I’m feeling fancy, add fresh pão de queijo and farofa. If Jesus came the next day, he could eat those leftovers with us, in freshly pressed corn tortillas (the kids love rolling out the balls of masa and squishing them in the press). For dessert, He can join us in eating homemade bread and preserves.

We usually drink water. I don’t have wine to offer, but if He wants it, I’m sure He can manage.

It’s a good solid meal, unpretentious peasant food. It’s kosher, which is only polite when serving someone raised Jewish. It’s vegetarian, a nod toward the millennium, a time that many latter day leaders, including Grant and Snow, believe none of us will eat flesh. It is one of the best meals I have to offer, and I can make it, from scratch to finish, in about an hour. I do make other good meals; our Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic. But that took at least eight hours of cooking and cleaning before we were able to move the food out of the kitchen to the table. I think it would be better to serve the simple meal, and have to time to sit and talk with Jesus, than the be confined to the kitchen, stressed about taste and presentation, engaged in a massive cooking effort that requires an equally massive cleaning effort. Remember the dinner party hosted by Mary and Martha?

Years ago, our ward Primary president was trying to get one of the more unruly boys to behave. “Is this how you would act if Jesus were here?” she asked him. He thought about it for a moment before responding, “If Jesus already knows who we are, why act? He would know it’s just an act, right?” That question, “Why act?” was the most profound thing my husband heard in his six years of being Primary pianist. We do no one a favor with false offerings and vain pretentions. We should strive to do each thing well so we may be confident in fruits of our labor, not proud or ashamed. If what our family is eating is beans and rice, that is what we should serve the Savior when He drops in. It is what we can honestly share with any soul who comes to us for hospitality.

This is clearly not what the church leader had in mind as he was counseling us to be generous in our fast offerings. I have no complaint with the admonition to be generous. And although it appears that the Savior would get a very different meal at my house than at his, I am thankful he gave me a chance to think through what I would feed Jesus if He showed up at my door.

What meal would you feed the Savior, if He came to your home?

39 comments for “If Jesus came for dinner…

  1. Our fast offerings have no relation to the cost of a meal, but I have received blessings in a so much greater proportion than what I pay in.

  2. I like that you truly considered what the leader said and then made your own, thoughtful, and faithful conclusion :)

  3. “Why act?”

    Our stake has a policy of asking members to dress in Sunday clothes for their temple recommend interviews. The president says it is to show respect for the temple and that we should dress like we would if Jesus were conducting the interview. The only thing I would be able to think is “why act?” When I go to work, I dress a certain way, not out of respect for anyone, but because I expect people to judge me on the way I’m dressed. If I were to have an interview with the Savior, I think my only reaction would be, “finally, I can dispense with the fancy clothes, because he won’t be looking on the outward appearance.”

  4. Rachel,
    Nice piece. My quick reactions:

    (1) Seriously, people point to steak as the exemplar good meal? I mean, an occasional steak, sure, but it’s far from the pinnacle of dining.

    (2) Like you, what Jesus would get to eat at my house would depend a lot on how much notice He gave; if He just popped in, he’d get whatever I had made (or had ingredients for). If I had some notice, though, I’d probably scour my cookbooks and epicurious.com for something that looked good and that I’d never made before. That’s often how I plan meals for guests. And, along those lines . . .

    (3) I have to part ways on your “Why act?” question. Preparing a fancier meal than one generally eats when expecting guests isn’t acting; it’s hospitality. And I don’t mean for a second to suggest that feeding guests what we’d eat anyway is somehow gauche or unacceptable; nonetheless, hospitality =/= acting.

  5. I have a feeling if I made a big fancy meal for Jesus he would teach me a lesson about what’s important in life. Martha and Mary come to mind…

  6. Nice responses so far, everyone. Sam, it is true that I try to put my best foot forward when offering hospitality, but it is still my foot. What I want to do is offer the best that I have, even if that best is humble (because it’s the end of the week and I’m working with food storage and garden leftovers and haven’t had a chance to make it to the store). And for me to even consider serving steak is definitely not in character for me. I am impressed that you would serve a meal you’d never made before to guests; I would be far too anxious to do so; I like to try things out on my family first to get a sense of the ingredients and time involved before I commit to giving it to others.

  7. “Then he encouraged us to make our fast offering calculations based on the cost of the meal fit to serve our Lord.”

    Wow. Way to not compel people in all things, right? I don’t think I’ve ever tried to calculate the cost of the forgone meal. Should I? Am I doing it wrong? I mean, I always knew that was the counsel but I guess I never really took it literally. I’ve given what I think is right for me to give based on what I can give. Otherwise I would think the actual calculation of what really goes into a meal could be difficult to assess (how much does a pinch of salt and a dash of lemon cost, for example)? I’ll have to think about this next week.

    I really enjoyed this post. Having Jesus present really should not change the way I behave, although I’m sure it certainly would. I’m going to have to think about that.

    But I digress. To answer your question, if I got no notice, he’s getting take out. I’d rather order in and concentrate on the dinner conversation as opposed to the meal itself. If I had notice, homemade cafe rio salad. Laugh if you will, but it’s my favorite meal and that’s what I’d like to share with him. When done up right, it’s heaven.

  8. The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears wasn’t putting on an act. She was treating him like the King that he is.

    I once had a great boss who hired me for a tremendous job opportunity that I didn’t deserve but much appreciated. And when I left that job I gave him a rather large gift certificate to the nicest restaurant in town. It was my poor way of showing my gratitude. And given the depth of my gratitude towards the Savior, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t kill the fatted calf for him.

    Or maybe I should just take him out to the same restaurant. Tremendous fillet mignon there.

  9. I think the meal you describe sounds divine, Rachel! If you include the cheese, I don’t know what more I would want to put on the table. I might try to work in some beet greens or chard, sauteed with a little olive oil and butter (yeah, preferably a little of both) and some balsamic vinegar.

  10. Nice post, Rachel.

    If the Lord comes. I’ll get takeout. Then we’ll have more time to talk…and better food undoubtedly. (I have no clue how to cook a steak.)

    P.S. Kosher meals are a lot more complicated than avoiding pork or not mixing meat and dairy. Your entire kitchen has to be kosher. Only certified kosher foods should be in your home, dishes and utensils must be segregated, even sinks have to be kashered between uses of meat/diary. Some even maintain that separate dishwashers must be used.

    I’m not an expert in this and hope I didn’t misrepresent anything. Almost all our neighbors in Boca were Jewish and they explained many parts to me. Most of the local grocers had rabbis on staff to certify (and label) fresh foods.

    Gefilte fish, anyone?

  11. Chadwick wrote: ” it’s my favorite meal and that’s what I’d like to share with him.” Reading this made me so happy. I love this sentiment.

    MC: You bring up a good point–we should give our very best to Christ, and as an act of devotion and worship, there is nothing hypocritical about that, even if it is a divergence from our normal routine. I suppose that is why so many people would choose take out; it is a way to offer something very good on short notice. I can even imagine the delivery guy being invited in to sit and talk and eat with the Savior in that scenario.

    Ben H: I love chard. If I had any, that would definitely be whipped up too. A more at-hand option is dandelion greens. I have a weedy patch of my yard that I preserve for culinary purposes.

    Alison: You are absolutely right about kosher. I was thinking about my good friend and neighbor in New York, who wasn’t incredibly observant. She was vegan. This meal, minus the cheese, was good enough for her standards, but I recognize that my kitchen wouldn’t pass muster. And having eaten gefilte fish, I would not offer that to a guest, not unless they requested in advance, and didn’t expect me to have more than a polite nibble.

  12. From what we read in the scriptures, the Savior is apparently fond of seafood. (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:8) Sardine sandwiches, perhaps, or fish tacos.
    However, as I understand it, when the Savior comes to our homes, he brings the meal. (Revelation 3:20; 3 Nephi 20:3-7)

  13. Great posts, everyone, and thanks Rachel for starting it all. I think any number of things will be happy, as long as the gift/sacrifice is done from the heart. That’s the beauty of it, since He knows our heart.

  14. John Roberts: That is what occurred to me as well. And your citation to John 21 applies to your second point. When the apostles had dragged ashore the great draught of fish, they discovered that Jesus had already made breakfast for them, just as he provided a simple meal of loaves and fishes to the five thousand.

    The manna that Jesus, as Jehovah, fed to Israel for 40 years was about as simple as food could get. Yet it was considered to be the essential heavenly meal, with a memorial container of it placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

    The fruit of the Tree of Life is another simple meal, but there is no need to cook or prepare it. God has placed all of its beneficial and desirable qualities into a fruit that only needs to be plucked, to be sought for and found, to be asked for and received.

    Then of course there is the bread and water that represents the flesh and blood of the Savior. Again, the benefit comes with simplicity.

    The scriptures call on us to be grateful for the abundance and variety and aesthetic pleasures if the world God has made for us. That includes gratitude for grains if wheat gleaned while walking through a field, to the feasts put on at the celebration of a wedding. I am pretty sure the Savior would never turn down any meal shared with sincerity. He feasted with sinners who were repentant, like Matthew and Zacheus the publicans. He did not deny Martha the blessings that came with her feeding not only him but also thebapostles, and probaby his mother and brothers as well.

    As to pretense, I think there is a difference between being deceptive about our true natures, and aspiring to be the best self we can be. I home taught an inactive brother who, when he stopped drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and came to church, told me that he found that when he wore his Sunday church clothing throughout the Sabbath day, it made it easier for him to not fall back into bad habits. Like the clothing and name tags missionaries wear, it reminded him that he had made covenants to live the best way he could.

  15. Wonderful post, Rachel.

    I cringed when I read, “If you make your fast offerings based on the cost of those meals, you will not be paying a generous fast offering.”

    Um, I’m not asked to pay fast offerings based on what rich people spend on their meals. I’m asked to give on what I and my family spend on our meals. “Generous” to me means more than the cost of two of OUR meals – which can be significantly lower than the cost of one meal eaten by a gluttonous rich person or one meal served by a professional chef to an honored guest.

    That rant aside, I agree that it depends on how much notice I have and how close to payday it is. I can’t imagine Jesus would want my kids to eat less for the rest of the month because I spent more on his food that meal (or that we not attend church the next Sunday because we spent our gas money on his food) – so he would get the best we would prepare normally for any other special occasion.

    Honestly, I don’t know what we would feed him, since that decision likely would be by committee – and my wife and daughters would out-vote me in the end, anyway.

  16. My thinking amounts to this: In giving a fast offering, I’m not serving a meal as a courtesy to a God who doesn’t need my offering. I’m giving meals to people who might suffer without them.

    Why can’t people in positions of authority simply and plainly say, “Our ward is falling short on fast offering funds; please give as generously as you can” followed by a reading of the policy?

  17. “I don’t have wine to offer, but if He wants it, I’m sure He can manage”

    Am still laughing over that line…

  18. Rachel, a lovely post. To be sure if the Savior shows up at my house, he’ll know what it’s like before he arrives (perhaps that’s why he hasn’t stopped by, yet…). Although your leader may have had good intentions, I wonder why he didn’t just quote President Kimball’s teaching to give more than the cost of our two skipped mealas — ten times more if we can.

    And Sam, I agree that hospitality is not necessarily acting. But I also appreciate the notion that we ought to balance our desire to “impress” the Savior with the willingness to sit at his feet and be taught.

  19. i would offer him the best we have in the house and apologize we couldn’t do better. We don’t need to do any kind of groveling, just show basic common courtesy. That’s what he expects of us.

  20. That sounds like dinner at our house too, Rachel. Only I would be sure to serve Jesus gaucamole with it, since He probably missed avocados a lot when He was living in the Middle East too.

    If He asked what He could bring, I’d say nothing, but pressed, might let Him bring manna for dessert. Or some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I’ve always wondered how it actually tasted, and I’m assuming there would be no harm in eating it now.

    I agree that your leader’s counsel was pretty weird. There are better ways to ask the ward to contribute a more generous fast offering. And I loved your allusion to Mary and Martha.

  21. It didn’t occur to me on first reading, but I don’t agree that the child who said “Why act?” was saying anything profound. If someone had told him, “Jesus is here, you need to behave,” then his rejoinder would have made sense, however petulant it may have been. But they were specifically pointing out that he would act differently if Jesus were there (which is almost certainly true), and that he should conform his behavior to that ideal, at which point his good behavior would cease to be an act, but would reflect his true character. In which case, his response is just a smart-alecky retort from an obnoxious primary kid (I speak from experience).

  22. MC-there’s no doubt that the kid was trying to be a smart aleck. That doesn’t mean he didn’t (by accident) hit on an interesting thought. It is, however, unlikely that he was able to appreciate it. I do think that his true character, even on best behavior, would not have conformed to the Primary president’s standards. But his best behavior, even it it is a twitchy, wiggly, with comments, some appropriate, some not, spilling out of him, would likely be acceptable to Jesus who I hope would recognize the enthusiasm, vitality, and hope that simply cannot be contained quietly in a little body. For that kid, and others like him, to be quiet and still, our standard church definition of reverence, would not just be an act, it would be unchildlike and unnatural.

  23. fast offerings go into the same , unaccounted for , general fund as tithing $ does FYI. i dont know why people think it stays locally.

  24. #29 Andy, although FO funds are deposited into the same bank account and moved to Salt Lake (for US units), wards (and stakes) know how much they’ve collected and expended in Fast Offerings over time because the church financial statements to units make this very clear. So a ward knows if it is dispersing more FO funds than it collects. On more than one occasion in the last decade our stake was asked to be FO self-sufficient. I do not know if that is a standing request today.

  25. Rachel you rock. Great post. Me I’d give him a peanut butter and honey sandwich just cause he probably never gets one and would probably like something ordinary for a change.

  26. Coriander in your black beans? An intriguing thought! I will try it this week.

    (By the way, it seems to me that there is some relationship between coriander, cumin and/or cilantro. Can anybody clarify?)

  27. (By the way, it seems to me that there is some relationship between coriander, cumin and/or cilantro. Can anybody clarify?)

    Coriander is the one who followed the harlot Isabel. Cumin is a city near Antiparah which Helaman took by siege.

    I’m not sure about cilantro — I think that’s in the lost 116 pages.

  28. #31: Good point re: the peanut butter sandwich. I remember in my BIL’s ward in Ogden they had to announce to stop feeding the missionaries roast beef. Every family wanted the “best” for the missionaries when they came, so all the elders were eating was roast beef and mashed potatoes… (They obviously weren’t eating at Rachel’s house…)

  29. The seeds are coriander, the leaves are cilantro. Manna was described as being “round like coriander seed.” But Kaimi’s answer is better. It’d be fun to put together a meal with fish, bread, and honey. Maybe add some dates and olives.

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