Friday 8th March – Luke 6:20-26 ‘Strange woes’

Luke 6:20-26

Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ groups of people who are blessed.  This was revolutionary enough – however, it doesn’t end there.  Jesus goes on to describe four other groups who are the opposites of those blessed (vv24-26).  What are we to make of these?

The context here is a long-standing misunderstanding of the Law by much of the people of God.  When Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, God presented them with a similar idea of two paths: blessings and curses (Deuteronomy).  Holiness – i.e. faithfulness to God’s law – would produce blessing, unholiness would lead to curses.  The blessings God describes are broadly in two categories: fruitful harvests (and therefore food security), and peace and safety from their enemies.  In contrast, ungodliness would negate either or both of these blessings.

The problem is that the link between godliness and these particular blessings became extended to the idea that all wealth was a sign of God’s blessing.  It’s a subtle distinction, but God did not promise a faithful Israel excessive riches or comfort, only plentiful food and physical security.  The ‘rich’ here are not, therefore, godly (or blessed) by definition: some may be, but the implication here is of wealth beyond what is needed.  These are the ones who have prioritised (idolised?) material comfort in this life, rather than ‘true wealth’ in the next.

Similarly, poverty was not, in and of itself, a curse.  As the Old Testament progressed, more of its content came to address the idea that many people were poor not because they were ungodly but for precisely the opposite reason: because they were godly, and were exploited by the unscrupulous rich.  It is this latter group who we can imagine being ‘well fed’ or ‘laughing’ at others’ expense (v25). They have climbed the greasy pole, courting popularity rather than principled godly living (v26) – and it these to whom Jesus addresses the woes.

We, too, must beware a similar temptation to apply this text beyond its limits: however, it is a healthy reminder that God’s values are not ours.  Jesus came for those who have been aptly described as ‘the lost, the last and the least’ – which is good news for most of us!  So, today, give thanks for this extraordinary, radical Saviour.  And pray for grace to hold lightly to the trappings of this world.