Feasting Together: The Potluck Party of God

Adapted from Practicing the King’s Economy, 89-98, 110.

Scripture calls us as the people of God to care for those who are struggling economically. But so often, the metaphor for our compassion becomes the soup kitchen—we line up on one side of the serving line and scoop hot resources into the bowls of hungry people standing on the other side—instead of a potluck—where everyone has a place and everyone brings a plate.

But if God’s economy is a potluck rather than a soup kitchen, Christians’ primary problem isn’t that people in material poverty “out there” in the world are hungry and hurting. Our primary problem is that because of economic poverty and sin, they aren’t “in here,” participating fully in the joyful life of God’s kingdom community, giving and receiving gifts around the Lord’s table.

What’s the Goal?

Think about it for a moment: What’s the goal of your economic life—your working, producing, consuming, and investing? For many of us, our economy produces people oriented toward selfish ends, so that we aim our economic lives toward self-gratifying consumption. We probably include our family and friends in our financial goals, and we certainly would like to tithe when we can, but at the end of the day, our focus tends to be on our individual benefit.

This view works nicely with the soup kitchen. Each family makes sure they’ve got enough for themselves, and then they hopefully have some left over. Those leftovers are just what we need for the soup kitchen. But if what we’re after is a potluck, then the potlucking community needs to become our target!

“So That He Can Continue to Live Among You”

In the Old Testament, the Lord gave Israel economic commands designed to protect widows, visiting immigrants, orphans, and anyone struggling to survive. Sabbath days created rest for workers, Sabbath years provided for the release of people in debt slavery, gleaning laws created opportunities for work for the unemployed, tithes provided for the needy, and more. All this culminated in the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25, when farmland was returned to those families who had been forced to sell it or otherwise lost control of it over the past 50 years. 

The goal of all this, though, wasn’t simply to ensure that all Israelites could get food, shelter, and clothing. God’s goals went far beyond that. He instructed the Israelites to follow the Jubilee regulations so their fellow Israelites could continue to live among them (Lev. 25:35). Israel’s “economic policies” served God’s vision for community life, in which every member of the community could be a full participant.

God cares about every single family being able to bring a plate to the potluck and put constraints on Israel’s economic freedom to ensure that every Israelite could be a full participant in the community. Each family and clan within Israel had responsibilities both to their own farm and family and to the larger community. Economic practices that threatened togetherness couldn’t be tolerated. 

When You Give a Feast…

Like the Israelites, though, most of us struggle to avoid self-centeredness, even when we know it’s against God’s design, even when we know it’s bad for us. God warned the people that when they prospered economically in the land, they would be tempted to forget the Lord and instead declare: “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17 ESV). The question for the Israelites (and all of us) is how to become people who can experience economic abundance without becoming consumed by selfishness and pride. 

The Lord had an answer. Deuteronomy 26 is the only place in all the first five books of the Old Testament where ordinary worshippers were given precise words with which to address the Lord. Every Israelite was to declare openly that their ancestors were wandering nobodies and oppressed slaves, that the only reason they weren’t back on Pharaoh’s never-ending assembly line was the lavish grace of a God who rescues his people in might and power. This worship, too, was meant to culminate in joy-filled feasting with the community (see Deut. 26:11).

Over and over again, the Lord commanded Israel to party before Him in nationwide feasts. In Deuteronomy 14, He told the Israelites to take their tithe of grain, wine, meat, and oil that they owed God and eat it together in his presence. Indeed, if the way was too long for them to carry their tithes with them, the Lord allowed them to convert their crops and herds and grapes into money and buy whatever they desired (14:26). “Come and feast with me,” Yahweh declared to the people, “and rejoice, you and your household.” God was so serious about people feasting with joy that throughout Deuteronomy he didn’t expect, recommend, or anticipate festive joy…he commanded it.

Party Planning for Pilgrims

God held off on getting into the specifics of many aspects of the party planning, but He never tired of giving strict instructions on the guest list. Children, servants, Levites (who had no land allotments of their own), sojourners, the fatherless, widows, are all expressly commanded to be included in the feast (see Deut. 12:12, 14:29, 16:11-14, 26:11).

Over and over again, the feast that God required was the joyous festival celebrated alongside the economically marginalized within the community. Once we realize that several of these feasts were part of annual pilgrimages to the central sanctuary, the community-shaping economics of this law become even clearer.

Economist Bob Goudzwaard once said that the feast was the horizon, the goal of the entire Israelite economic arrangement. Because the feast was made up of God’s good gifts given to his people who then gave those gifts back to him and to one another in worship (see Deut. 16:16), this feast that stood as the target of Israel’s economy wasn’t a soup kitchen. It was a potluck. God didn’t just require the Israelites to aim their economic lives at “us” rather than “me.” He created a new us through the regular requirement that everyone, even the immigrants and outcasts, feast together in celebration of God’s good gifts. The creation of that new us didn’t just stay at the banqueting table though. It flowed out into a community where debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, and everybody was empowered to provide for themselves and contribute to the community.


As Christians, we belong to the body of Christ, and our King calls us to aim our economic lives at the community. God’s economy, then, isn’t simply a soup kitchen where everyone gets fed; it’s a potluck where everyone brings a plate to share.

Feasting together with God and neighbor has always been one of the Lord’s best strategies for shaping hearts that love Him and neighbor. The feasts of the Old Testament ultimately pointed to The Feast, the Lord’s Supper, at which Christ created a new community for himself across all social and economic divisions. Participating in such feasts requires us honestly to name and lament our brokenness, sufferings, injustices, and sins. When we do, though, we find ourselves welcomed to a festival community that participates in the circulation of grace, a potluck party in which each member shares their best plate with everyone else.

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

1 Comment

  1. Russ on May 3, 2024 at 11:39 am

    Spot on. So much in one blog post. Keep going, Chalmers team!

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