Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Blessed Poor

"Looking at his disciples, he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

We come now to Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount—except Luke tells us that Jesus preached it on a plain (Luke 6:17). There are two basic resolutions offered to this seeming contradiction. One is that the place where Jesus most likely preached Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is a stepped hill with some level areas on it.

In view of the many differences between the two sermons, a second solution looks attractive. It supposes that these are two different occasions. Like any great teacher, Jesus spoke His message more than once, but with variations due to the crowd and their needs. Thus, Luke and Matthew would be giving us the same sermon, but as preached on two different occasions.

One difference shows up right away. In Matthew, Jesus’ first beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” while in Luke, Jesus simply says, “Blessed are you poor.” As He says this, Jesus is looking at His disciples, so probably we are entitled to see the disciples as the first “poor” people He has in mind.

While there are four kinds of poverty identified in the Bible (poverty due to laziness, poverty due to calamity, disaster or disease, poor victims of oppression, and those who have given up many things in order to serve the kingdom of God), these all identify the poor in material terms. Matthew’s qualifier—“Blessed are the poor in spirit”—would exclude all four categories.

The poor in spirit are those people who, for their fulfillment in life, look for the approval of God and see their value as a reflection of the blessing of the King. If these are the group of people Jesus is addressing, it is remarkable that Jesus says to them, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Most of the beatitudes promise a future blessing, a blessing that will be theirs in heaven. But Jesus is saying those who are poor (poor toward this world, but rich toward God) right now in a certain sense enjoy a special privilege in God’s kingdom.

God is truly concerned for the materially poor. What kinds of relief work are Christians doing in your area? Are you able to devote time praying and helping? If you don’t know what is going on, find out. God cares and so must we.