Luke 6:20-28: Blessings and Woes

Read: Luke 6:20-28

Luke’s account of the “Beatitudes” includes only four of the 8 that are included in Matthew 5:1-12. But unlike Matthew, Luke includes four parallel “woes” that accompany each of the 4 beatitudes that he lists. Luke’s list seems supportive of one of his overarching themes, which is a gospel for the marginalized people in society, which in his days would include woman, the poor, lepers, and Gentiles.

  • Wealth and Poverty (verses 20 and 24): Jesus says those that are poor are blessed because they will have the kingdom of heaven, but pronounces a woe on the rich because they have their “consolation”. Interesting, the New Testament uses the same root word in the Greek, “paráklēsis” which is translated “consolation” to describe the Holy Spirit and his role with believers. He is called the “helper” (John 14:26, John 16:7, John 16:14). The woe here is not against being wealthy, rather trusting in one’s wealth for security. Likewise, one who finds pride in being poor is no better. The admonishment of the New Testament is to use wealth for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6) with one’s wealth and to be content in ones circumstances (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11).
  • Plenty and Hunger (verses 21a and 25a): Jesus says those that hunger will be filled but those that are full will be hungry. Matthew 5:10 account adds “for righteousness”. The same inheritance is given to these as is to the poor, namely the kingdom of heaven. Here again, the admonition isn’t to go about being hungry or be prideful in one’s hunger, rather find contentment in one’s circumstances, and as for those that have food he or she should be willing to share it with those who do not have food (Psalm 146:5-7, Matthew 5:42-43, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:15-17, Matthew 25:35-40).
  • Rejoicing and Mourning (verses 21b and 25b): Inevitably, there will be time for laughter and a time for mourning. For the Christian though, contentment again is great gain, and the call to rejoice in all circumstances goes out (1 Thessalonians 5:16) . The Christian condition is ultimately victorious even though temporal circumstances may be tough. In almost ever instance the command “rejoice” is found in the New Testament, it is done in the context of adversity A few references include 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10, John 16:22, Acts 5:41, Acts 16:25, Romans 5:2-3, Hebrews 10:34, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 4:13. The theme of great joy in the midst of grave circumstances is one of the marks of great faith in the one who does bring comforter.
  • Persecution (verses 22 and 26): There were not a lot of things that Jesus said would be certain for the disciples, but persecutions for his name sake was one of them (John 15:18-26. 2 Timothy 3:12-13). The disciples came to understand this to the point where there considered it a joy to be counted worthy to suffer (Acts 5:41). 1 Peter 4:12-19 says that one should not consider suffering to be something that is “strange”. The implication was that it would be “strange” to not have such persecution coming down on people. God is not calling people to seek out martyrdom (Matthew 10:23), but when persecution does come one is called to rejoice in spite of it. But to those who reject the message of Christ, they will be judged.

There is no guarantee that Christian life is an easy life and whoever says otherwise is selling a false gospel. Jesus did not call Christians to a life of comfort, but rather to expect a life of affliction for his name sake. For most American Christians, this isn’t the case, but for Christians around the world, persecution is real and intense, and those that do follow Christ suffer poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution of all types. In the event that one doesn’t suffer like this though, he or she should be about the work of comforting the poor, needy, mourning, and persecuted and praying that through their faith a harvest will come!

Lord, in spite of all the evil in this world, help me to rejoice and praise you!