Many are Invited, But Few are Chosen

Sometimes when I want to force myself to think a little more deeply in my study of the Bible, I will read from a translation that I am unfamiliar with. So many passages of the King James Version are like old song lyrics to me that I don’t have to look too closely to remember what is being said.

Recently, I’ve been reading from the New International Version, which has the twin benefits of being reasonably well-respected and having a nice free app. (I strive for “holy,” but “cheap” I have mastered). In doing so, I came across a different version of Matthew 22:14, which is the conclusion of the parable of the wedding feast or the wedding banquet. In the KJV, the parable closes with the familiar and oft-repeated: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” In the NIV, it is rendered: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

It’s a tiny little difference, but one that jarred me a bit because I know how that verse is “supposed” to read. Tripping on the one-word change forced me to consider whether it was a change that makes a difference.

When we talk of being “called”, it evokes images of an obligation, almost in the sense of being ordained or set apart. Maybe even drafted. The word “invited” suggests more of an opportunity than an obligation, the chance to participate in something unique and pleasant.

When I was little and heard my mother calling, or now when I hear my wife calling, I have a pretty good sense that there is going to be a task or duty at the end of the summons. By contrast, when I am invited to go somewhere or do something, the underlying implication is that there is a celebration or event that I want to attend, but can only do so with with the consent of the person in charge.

A “calling” is something imposed on you by a person of authority. An “invitation” is an open door to join someone else as a co-celebrant. You are “called to action,” and that calling asks for your service, effort and sacrifice. You are “invited to attend,” and the invitation expresses merely a happy anticipation of your presence.

Two very different words with distinct implications and assumptions, but which evokes the true nature of the Lord’s request to attend the wedding feast? I think the answer is that each of them highlights different aspects of the same event. When we are called to the Lord’s feast, it is not merely a passive gesture, but a call to change our lives and live in service to God and to one another. But the invitation to the Lord’s feast reminds us of how welcome and wanted our presence is and the celebration awaiting us as His disciples.

It assures us that the Lord is as anxious for us to be in His presence as we are to be there.

…and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness…

2 Nephi 26:33
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