20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:Luke 6:20-26, ESV
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Blessed are the poor, and cursed are the rich. Blessed are the hungry now, and cursed are the full now. Blessed are those who weep now, and cursed are those who laugh now. Blessed are the reviled and cursed are those lauded. These contrasts are challenging to understand. What does this mean for me? Am I rich or poor? Am I hungry or filled? Am I mournful or jovial? Am I persecuted or celebrated? There is a danger to an overly literalistic approach to this passage.
Am I in Trouble?
We are wealthy people, Americans that is. Is Jesus condemning us all? According to a recent article published by CNBC (link here), “the overall median net worth of U.S. households, which is $121,700.” How wealthy is that? According to another CNBC article that was published in 2018 (link here), “to be among the top 10 percent worldwide, you don’t even need six figures: A net worth of $93,170 will do it.” What does that mean? The average American reading this devotion is easily ranked among the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest people. What should we do now? Should I, a Christian and a natural-born citizen of the United States, take a vow of poverty, sell everything, give it all to the poor, and then pursue living below the median standard of living as an American? I suppose we could, but is wealth only measured by net worth? No. We are wealthy in innumerable ways. We have cul-de-sacs, gated communities, public transit, national healthcare. We have local police departments, local fire departments, first responders available around the clock, and public attorneys. We have the right to vote. We have clean water, supermarkets, and this list feel like they could go on forever. Is Jesus’ message to all American Christians, “woe,” a declaration of doom?
Jesus is the point.
R.C. Sproul, in his book A Walk With God, commenting on this passage, wrote, “…this address focuses its attention not merely on various moral maxims or ethical principles, but upon loyalty and devotion to Christ himself. The eternal destiny of people is determined by how they respond to him. He promises heaven to those who suffer for his sake, who remain loyal to him.” The insight is helpful to us because we are all capable of missing, as it were, the forest for the trees. Studying the passage in front of us today, we ought to pay close attention to the poetic centerpiece. In the middle of the benedictions on one side and declarations of doom on the other is the phrase, “on account of the Son of Man!” That is the hinge. It is the interpretive key. Blessed are all who suffer, weep, and are hated for Jesus’ sake. The eschatological promise of joy, peace, love, and satisfaction is guaranteed to all who persevere by grace through faith. The eschatological promise of damnation is guaranteed to all who prefer this fallen world’s offer of joy, peace, love, and satisfaction. Jesus is the central point. Will you choose Him above all? Or will you choose anything above Him?