Luke 6:20-26 (ESV)
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
“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! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
The four woes here are puzzling. Surely Jesus can’t be condemning people for laughing or for being spoken well of. What is He talking about?
Two things about this passage help make it clear. First off, Jesus is addressing his most loyal followers. He lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and gave this message. He isn’t pronouncing judgment; He’s teaching.
Second, the blessings and the woes pair off perfectly. Remember, tough times are coming for His listeners. The four pairs pretty much describe their future: poverty, hunger, weeping and being reviled.
Jesus is both warning them and instructing them.
Do not seek riches. Do not seek a full belly. Do not avoid sorrow. Do not seek popularity. This is tough teaching for modern Americans. Could we ever rise to the standard of the original disciples?
Let this passage challenge you. Each one of us is incredibly rich by first century standards. I wouldn’t want every pleasure Caesar himself had if it meant giving up toothpaste.
But God isn’t calling us to give up toothpaste; He’s calling us to do everything for His glory. He is calling us to sacrifice though. The blessings of modern life are not the goal.
Today’s Christian has a different set of challenges. Modern medicine and other modern tools have removed most of the challenges of the first century. Now we have the temptations of the internet and the viciousness of politics.
Even though the tools have changed, the command has not; love God and love your neighbor.
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