Chapter 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.
Question to consider: How would Jesus’ hearers have received this message, and how should we receive it today?
Yesterday, we saw that Jesus went up on a mountain (possibly the mount of olives) and prayed all night. He then came down and called up 12 of His followers to be apostles. He then came back down with them to meet crowds of people from all over the region to heal and proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. This could be the same sermon that Matthew and Mark call the “Sermon on the Mount”, or that could have occurred at another time. I’m sure Jesus preached this sermon multiple times to different crowds.
The news that He gave them must have been shocking, for people had lived with the understanding that God’s blessing was displayed in material wealth and worldly power, and Jesus upended that notion. The poor, hungry and bitter all thought they had been cursed by God, but Jesus gave them cause to rejoice, for they could look forward to God’s reward for them in heaven. These words would especially bring encouragement to the early church because, like the prophets before them, the church would experience hunger and poverty and persecution merely for associating with Jesus. Those who were of the perspective that these things were a sign of God’s curse would be tempted to renounce the faith.
Jesus then warned the people in the crowd who were prosperous and well-loved that they were more like the false prophets and would come up wanting on the day of judgment. This was evident in the ministry of Jesus who preached good news to the outcast and poor and exhorted the prideful religious leaders who thought Jesus would be impressed by them.
People have used this text as a means to call any form of material success a sin and consider it holy to take a vow of poverty. Yet, in the Book of Acts, Luke points to those in the church at Antioch who gave some of the material wealth to the church at Jerusalem who was experiencing a need. Never once were the wealthy people at Antioch exhorted for having money. They were only praised for their generosity.
We are saved by Christ alone. So any theology that requires a vow of poverty in addition to Christ should be rejected. It’s worth noting that we’ve been living under the New Covenant for more than 2,000 years, and it is at least for the moment, possible to have material success in a Christ-honoring way. If we are going to apply this sermon to our lives, it would be to examine our hearts in regard to material possessions. Am I doing all things to the glory of God and depending upon Him for my sustenance rather than my ability to generate wealth? Do I cling too hard and spend too much time pursuing things that are perishing? Do all people speak well of me because I avoid any conversations about Jesus or because I never associate with anyone outside of the church? Do those who speak ill of me do so because of my bad behavior or because they hate Christ?
Dear heavenly father, we ask that You help us to honor You in all of our business dealings and in the way that we view things that are of this world. Help us to depend upon Your grace and mercy that we may put all of our faith and hope in Christ alone. Amen.