I am going to spend the next four blogs on the Beatitudes as recorded from Dr. Luke’s account. The good doctor only mentions four of these beatitudes, whereas Matthew records nine. Most believe both men were writing about the same sermon. It sounds like some of the people who have taken notes during my messages. I believe Luke was not simply abbreviating the sermon, but highlighting what he believed to be the four most important traits a disciple of Christ needs to possess. According to Luke, those who follow Jesus must operate under a set of values different from and often opposite of that of the world. Thus, the blessed life is not found in “getting” or from “doing”, but from “being.”
In Luke’s portrait of the blessed life he wants his readers to notice the good and bad, the right from the wrong. For each of the blessings there is a corresponding woe. These four woes all share a common truth … beware of what you take from life, you will pay for it in the long run. So these are not simply commands, but descriptions of what the life of the righteous should look like.
Imagine for a moment that I tell you “the righteous only drive 35 miles per hour.” “What!” You say, “I have the capability to cruise 70 mph and do so all the time.” I retort, “Yep, I know… but the righteous only go 35 mph.” I am not telling you that you have to always operate at 35 mph. I am telling you that the righteous only travel at 35 mph. You are simply given the choice to learn, listen from the Lord, and operate as He instructs. You don’t have to travel at His speed, but righteous people do.
Beware of Getting It All Now
20 “… Blessed are you poor For yours is the Kingdom of God”
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.”
A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. She described the situation in vivid detail so her students would catch the drama. Then she asked the class: “If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?”
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, “I think I’d throw up.”
You never know how someone is going to respond in any given situation until you are actually walking it out. The same is true of life. We really don’t know what it means to be “poor” or “rich” until we experience it. There is nothing innately righteous about being poor, nor is there any automatic evil in being rich. The poor are not automatically spiritual and the rich are not automatically evil. The writer of Proverbs states it perfectly.
“… Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; (9) Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9
Riches and poverty can be a blessing or a curse. Jesus taught…. when a choice must be made between money and God, God must always come first. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24 When we fail to have our priorities in order… our circumstances, whether we are rich or poor, dictate our response. Money is not evil, unless it takes the place of God. This is why Jesus said, “It is the love of money which is at the root of all evil.“
Jesus follows this teaching of blessings on the poor a few verses later with a corresponding “woe” in verse twenty-four, “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.” The word “woe” is an expression of dismay and regret, rather than a threat. Woe is meant to serve as a road sign like “yield” or “stop” what you’re doing. Jesus is expressing disappointment for the actions and attitudes of those who do not accept what the Kingdom of God offers. Listen to this modern paraphrase of this verse. (The Message) “It’s trouble ahead for those who think they have it made, What you have is all you’ll ever get.”
The Lord doesn’t want us to spend all of our resources totally on ourselves. This would be a waste or our time, talents, money, and abilities. This is what actually makes people poor…wasting their God-given resources on selfish pursuits.
Jesus is not blessing economic poverty or raising one social class above another. Matthew spiritualized the word “poor” by saying “poor in spirit”. This is how we usually quote this verse. “Poor” is actually “pious“, a religious term, not an economic word. The word for “pious” means, “those who depend absolutely on God.” Being pious has gotten a bad rap here in the modern era. But being pious is a good thing, especially as it relates to the Lord.
Luke wants his readers to compare these two words. Being pious stands in a juxtaposition to being rich, which means “self-sufficient.” Rich doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with amounts of money or accumulation of wealth. You are either (pious) God dependent or (rich) self-sufficient. If you are poor, you are trusting the Lord to reward you later. If you are rich, you are getting all your rewards now. It is usually easier to move towards God when you are poor, rather than when you are rich, because you don’t have to battle having riches or self-sufficiency.
The big blessing here… “the Kingdom of God is yours!” The meaning of “is” is always two-dimensional when speaking from the eternal point of view. It means “is now” and “will be” even more so in eternity. Jesus is saying that if one has this attitude now, he or she already is enjoying life in the kingdom or realm or atmosphere of God.
Shizo Kanakuri disappeared while running the marathon in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. He was listed as a missing person in Sweden for 50 years — until a journalist found him living quietly in southern Japan.
Overcome with heat during the race, he had stopped at a garden party to drink orange juice, stayed for an hour, then took a train to a hotel and sailed home the next day, too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving.
There’s a happy ending: In 1966, Kanakuri accepted an invitation to return to Stockholm and complete his run. His final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds — surely a record that will last forever.
I know a lot of believers who run from being “pious” and totally dismiss any assertion they are “rich”. They honestly look at this beatitude and struggle to apply it. The truth is the Lord wants to give us His Kingdom right now! The only way to discover the deeper joys of Kingdom life is to become God dependent and less self-sufficient. If we choose to disappear from the race like our friend from Japan and blend into crowd of mediocrity, we will lose our identity. The call is always to “seek His face while He can be found and call upon Him while He is near, because He cares for us.”