Luke 6, contd. – Woes Upon the Wealthy

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Today’s PassageLuke 6

Some people miss the forest for the trees. In yesterday’s post, focusing on a single verse about one of the few all-nighters Jesus pulled in all his roughly 12,000 nights spent on earth, I neglected to cover any of the rest of Luke 6. Thus, in an effort to obtain a broader view of the chapter, today we will be considering a single, different tree.

We can find this tree of which I speak in the latter two-thirds of the chapter, as Jesus preaches to the crowds. While the Sermon on the Mount begins with the well-known Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Plateau complements Jesus’ blessings with curses. And look at who these curses are directed towards: “Woe to you who are rich…Woe to you who are well-fed now…Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (24-26). I hope these woes weren’t meant universally, because man, I hit all of those categories easily. By any meaningful metric I have wealth coming out of my ears, I will do just about anything to keep from making enemies, and I only miss meals when I can’t be bothered to stop binge-watching Let’s Plays on Youtube.

But when Jesus says “now,” even if he means those specifically alive circa 30 AD (his historical contemporaries), I believe his words have particular import for our age. It’s not inherently evil to have things and not spend every waking second suffering from physical privation–Christianity is not synonymous with masochism–but we who are comfortable should take caution. Later on in Luke’s gospel, we’ll see Jesus warning his listeners: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:48). Whatever objects we have, we have because of God’s generosity. He expects us to use them well and not to deprive those who need them.

And if we refuse our possessions to the poor, our food to the hungry, our well-being to the devastated, then heaven help us.

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4 thoughts on “Luke 6, contd. – Woes Upon the Wealthy

  1. For me, some observations from this reading of Luke 6:
    6.1-11 covers two Sabbaths, both of which involve Jesus’ doing good and receiving criticism and rage from religious folks. (Back up to chapter 5 for more criticism.) Following the second Sabbath Jesus spends time with The Father all night. The next day he publicly selects Twelve Disciples, heals many, and teaches about living in The Kingdom.
    Two things seem counterintuitive: He keeps going after being blasted by His critics. And He includes in His teaching how to treat critics….”do good to those who hate you” (6.27-36 and more).
    6.12, I believe, explains Him….. the way He lives, what He says, and how He relates to people.

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    1. There’s much about Jesus and his teaching that is counterintuitive. He serves as a constant reminder that we’re never done growing, never done watching ourselves get dismantled and reassembled into something new, never done getting invited to participate in the dismantling.

      Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it does. But I do believe it beats the alternative.

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