Jesus says blessed are the poor and woe to the rich. What in the world is that all about?
INTRODUCTION / THE PASSAGE
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor. Glad to be back.
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a peasant girl named Miriam.
Miriam spent most of her days gazing at the castle she could see on the horizon and daydreaming about becoming a princess
But in reality, she spent her days, working hard on her father’s farm…feeding the pigs, and preparing the meals for her large family.
Until one day, while she was out in the fields, the prince happened to drive his carriage on the road that passed by her father’s land.
At once, he decided she was the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen, and he asked her to meet him at the castle tomorrow.
They met the next day, fell in love, and soon they married and she became a princess.
But two years later…
Their country was invaded
Their castle was burned down and destroyed
They lost all of their money and riches
They lost all of their notoriety and fame.
And were forced to live out their remaining days working on her father’s Farm.
And yet…they were still happy all of their days.
Now…at first listen, we say, “What in the world was that story?!? That’s not really happily ever after!”
Our brains don’t even know what to do with a story like that…because the stories we read growing up, the movies we watch, the magazines we read…have caused us to wed the concepts of material success with happiness.
In our minds, they go together like Cake & Ice Cream
Yet we’re going to read in the Bible today, Jesus saying, “Not so fast! Think about this!!”
We are continuing once again in the Book of Luke this morning.
We’ve been going verse by verse through that Book this year.
We are now in chapter 6
I’m going to summarize a few verses for you and then we’ll jump in at verse 20
Verses 12-16 of chapter 6 show us Jesus selecting his 12 disciples…after going to God in prayer about it.
Verses 17-19 is yet another small section that shows Jesus operating in WORD & POWER like we talked about in June
The masses are coming to hear his teachings and be healed by His Power.
Let’s pick it up in verse 20 where Jesus is teaching concepts that sound like absolutely nothing you’d ever hear in any self-help or success seminar around the country today:
(Luke 6:20-26) – NIV
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
This section we’re in, all the way through the end of chapter 6, is sometimes called the “Sermon on the Plain”
We’re going to see a lot of similarities to the famous “Sermon on the Mount” that can be found in Matthew 5-7
It’s likely that Jesus shared many different versions and arrangements of his same teaching as he went from place to place and spoke to entirely different crowds.
It’s not like he only said everything just one time.
THE WORDLY MEASURING STICK
“So Jesus gives us this tough teaching where he says that the poor, those who hunger and weep, …are blessed.
And…WOE to the rich, the comforted, to the people that everyone likes
By the way, the word “woe” here is an expression of regret and compassion
…it would be like saying, “Oh man, and I feel super bad for those that have everything together…because…”
And these 7 verses are SO counter cultural
Go ahead, start scrolling through Facebook…
Tell me if you see any photos, with a cool filter on it, that quote this verse: “Blessed are the poor and hungry”
Honestly, most of us aren’t even really sure what to make of this teaching.
Let me tell you where we can at least start:
Most of us want to measure our lives by the world’s measuring stick.
If you have it in front of you, you’ll see that Jesus essentially gives us four categories of things that we ought not to find our identity in because they are, in fact, quite temporary on the timeline of eternity
Those 4 things (write this down…you can take notes in your app even)
Four Places We Shouldn’t Find Our Identity
1. Our Money (verses 20 & 24)
2. Our Comfort (verses 21 & 25)
3. Our Superiority (verses 21 & 25)
4. Our Likability (verses 22-23 & 26)
1. We shouldn’t find our identity in our wealth
2. We shouldn’t find it in our food (we could call that comfort)
3. We shouldn’t find it in our laughter (the Greek word here for laughter is like a gloating laughter…it’s this sense of, “I’m CLEARLY better than these lowlifes out here! )
4. We shouldn’t find our identity in people liking us.
And yet, for most people, those 4 things basically make up 100% of the pie chart of how people determine if their life is good or not.
If I have those 4 things, I’m happy…
And if I’m missing even half of 1 of those things, I’m not!
And yet, Jesus seems to turn this completely upside down
He’s saying, “You might be more blessed if you didn’t have all of those comforts…”
Now, before you go on a hunger strike and sell all of your possessions, let’s try and carefully, and Biblically think through WHY Jesus would even say this.
We’re clearly told in other parts of Scripture to serve the poor and help (absolutely)…but why is there also some sort of “blessing” in poverty and difficulty??
ADOPTION OVER MEASUREMENT
Now, understand, things like money or success aren’t inherently bad in and of themselves.
BUT if you let things like money, your superiority, or people pleasing become the standards by which you measure your life, well then, “woe to you,” because you’ll miss where the real blessing is.
(Back to “Blessings in Disguise” Title screen)
Think of it this way:
Imagine that you’re a child living at an orphanage
And like what naturally happens in any group of people, a hierarchy is created, and you find yourself trying to be top dog at the orphanage.
You try and get the most power, so you can tell the other kids what to do.
Maybe you try and get the most money from the other kids OR you try and position yourself to get the most or the best food at lunchtime
And let’s say eventually you do it…you make it to the “top of the orphanage org chart” J. You’re the most powerful person there
But one day, the director comes and says to you, “Listen, there is a nice mom and dad here that want to adopt you…
“But hear me, if you let them adopt you, you’re going to have to give up being top dog here and submit to their word”
And what if you looked back at that director and said, “No, I want to be on top here! I won’t even meet them!”
That right there…is EXACTLY why Jesus uses the word “woe” or “pity”
Because there are people all over the world that know about God…but don’t want to submit to Him…because they realize He wants ALL of them.
And so they, sadly, choose a temporary feeling of success or power…instead of looking at the long view…the eternal one.
You can even apply this parable to Christians.
Christians are like kids from the orphanage that have been told of their adoption, but are in the interim period…
We’re waiting to be officially picked up and taken home.
We’ve met our new Father.
We maybe even talk to Him on the phone every day, but we haven’t gone to live with him forever quite yet.
Our time on earth as Christians is like that interim period.
But in that interim, too many of us go back to trying to find our identity by being top dog at the orphanage again.
And in our passage today, Jesus is saying, “Are you crazy? Are you nuts?? Pity you who think that’s where you’ll find life!”
“The blessing is in the fact that you now have this certificate that says, “I’m now an adopted child of the King, and He is coming for me”
I am His and He is mine.
He’s preparing a room for me in His kingdom!
That’s where the blessing is!
Don’t get lost in trying to find your identity and blessing through the world’s measuring stick again.
Here’s what the Christian can and should say to themselves
I don’t measure myself by who the world says I am, but by who He says I am.
And I’m an adopted child of the King the Bible says!
Listen contextually in Luke 6, Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people that are incredibly poor.
We see elsewhere in the Gospels that one time there were over 5,000 of them in attendance, and none of them (except for 1 boy) had ANYTHING to eat.
Many of the people that are coming, are sick and have diseases..
Almost all of them are living hand to mouth…day after day.
And here’s what Jesus is addressing: Are they to look at their lives and say, “We’re not blessed because we’re not living in comfort and wealth”
No! He’s saying they shouldn’t think like that!
Because they’re not to measure their life by who the world says they are
That’s like the kid in the orphanage bragging about having the most coins.
Life is short.
Do you remember when we talked about this during The Rope series?
Life on earth is a blink and then you die.
Trust me, 10,000 years from now, you’ll be much more concerned about whether you’re in heaven or hell than if you had more coins than your neighbor for that blink of an eye we called earth.
And so a person in poverty doesn’t have to worry about measuring their life by how much they have on earth.
And yet, most of us ARE indeed measuring our life AND we’re finding our identity by those worldly things.
It’s like this: Imagine this this red square represents your identity…where you find life…where you feel blessed.
But imagine this green square is the amount of money you have.
For all of us, it goes up, and it goes down.
But for WAY too many of us, our identity is magnetized to our money
Or for many of you, it’s your career
When it goes up, you feel up
When it goes down, you feel down.
Or for others of you, it’s one of those other worldly things we talked about in that “list of 4”
Maybe it’s feeling superior to others.
Or maybe it’s just “if people like you”
And your identity is stuck right to that.
If your popular in the neighborhood, or people like you at work, or all of your family relationships are good…YOU’RE GOOD
But if there’s drama in the family…or people are questioning your Christian beliefs at work…
And the teaching of Jesus is that your identity and self-worth oughta be divorced from those worldly things.
Our identity needs to be magnetized to CHRIST…and that we are found in Him…an adopted SON…and adopted DAUGHTER.
Loved by the King.
And that’s a constant that never changes.
And so we don’t need to measure our lives by how comfortable they are…or if we’re higher up than our neighbors on the world’s measuring stick
What if you go into work tomorrow and you get told that you’re losing your job?
Or you’re getting demoted?
Should you feel like less of a person?
Should that steal all of your joy?
No, because you don’t measure your life by the standards of the world…but by who you are in Him.
And job or no job…you’re the adopted child of the King.
I pray this is revolutionary to your thought-life for some of you.
So much of our pain, sadness, and anxiety comes from not measuring up to some worldly version of success.
Your house isn’t as nice as your sibling’s
You’re not as slim as you’re supposed to be
You haven’t been able to get pregnant like what seems like everyone else
You haven’t been able to take a fancy vacation like your Facebook friend and their 6,000 pictures they posted of it!
And we’re trapped in his sick loop in our mind where we shame ourselves for not measuring up…
all when Jesus is saying, “Hey!! Stop comparing yourself to the other kids in the orphanage!
I adopted you. I’m your father now.
And that is SO much more important!!
One of the main ways you can tell the difference between a true Christ-follower and someone of this world…is that people who follow Jesus can handle poverty, grief, and even persecution
Because we find our identity in Him…not where we currently are on the measuring stick
But if you find your identity in being successful or in your house…when you lose it all, you’ll lose your identity, and there will be no “you” left.
Because your real identity was, “The wealthy couple” NOT Christ-follower
If you find your identity in being a mom, and heaven forbid, you lose one of your kids, there will be no “you” left.
Because your identity was, first and foremost, a mom.
Our identity has to be magnetized to Christ above all things. ALL things.
BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE
But maybe you’re thinking, “I get how we shouldn’t measure ourselves by those worldly things, but how could there actually be a blessing if poverty comes my way? Or difficult times?
“Because it seems like Jesus IS taking it that far! He says, ‘Blessed ARE the poor’”
“And he makes it seem like I should even have a healthy dose of fear of getting everything I desire?”
“What’s that part about?
Let’s start with the latter half: The getting everything you want…the “woes” Jesus mentions in verses 24-26
Pretend with me for a moment that Jesus is up there
(Show picture of Jesus on screen)
And do you see this mirror? (hold up a large mirror)
Imagine that the raising of this mirror (like the raising of the blocks a few minutes ago) represents your earthly success.
The higher it goes, the better you’re doing by the world’s standards…the more money, comfort, and power you have.
Again, those things aren’t inherently bad (if you can get money and use it for Christ, get it)…but recognize too that those things are dangerous.
Jesus says it’s actually quite hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Never take the words of Christ lightly
So look…what happens when I get more and more success? I raise the mirror…and whom do I see?
I see me.
That’s the danger of success.
That’s why Jesus says, “Woe…it’s a pity…I feel so bad…for those who are rich, comfortable, and well fed…”
Because as the mirror goes up, we tend to give credit to whom?
And our hard work!
(PUT MIRROR DOWN)
But too many of us have the mirror right at eye level…because we live in the land of success.
One of my kids asked me the other day, “Daddy, are we rich?”
I didn’t even hesitate.
I said, “ABSOLUTELY.”
According to statistics, the average resident of Blaine, MN generates more income than 99% of people on planet earth.
Our problem is that we always look at the 1 person above us.
The one who has the walk-out basement, or owns a cabin
But if you were physically in a room with 100 people from around the world, and only 1 person in the entire room had more money than you, would you still say that you’re not rich?
We’re rich. Every person in this room. Even the poorest person in this room, statistically, is still richer than 97% of the world.
And our wealth means that compared to the rest of the world, we ARE successful, most of you worry about what you will eat for lunch, not IF you will eat lunch…
But if you’ve got plenty of money, and a little bit of success as well, that means you’re that much more likely to be patting yourself on the back and crediting yourself for what you’ve accomplished
Few things tend to block our view of God more than our success
If you’ve been successful…Woe to you…
Open your eyes wide…real wide.
Are you looking at yourself in the mirror…or are your eyes still on Christ? (it’s possible, but hard)
We talked about the woes…But what about the blessings?
How could there possibly be blessing in poverty or when God allows difficulty into your life and everything is trending downward?
Think of it this way…if the mirror going up is representative of worldly success…then the mirror going down represents a loss of money, or comfort, and even folks liking or admiring you…
Well, what happens when the mirror goes down??
Whom is it easier to see now??
Success so often breeds pride which blinds you from Jesus
But when life shows you you’re not as special as you thought, and the mirror comes down, you can see Him again.
THAT’S why Jesus is able to say to the crowd, “You’re poor…you’re hungry…you’re disliked because of your faith…
You…You guys…are blessed.
Yours is the kingdom of God.
Because when you’re poor, hungry, or broken, you don’t have a massive mirror in front of your face blocking your view of God.
You’re not admiring yourself…you’re looking for answers.
You’re maybe, for the first time, ready to put your identity in Christ…not in the things of this world.
And that…at the end of the day, THAT is what matters most.
That’s why Jesus can say, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
If God needs to break you and have you lose your money in order for you to see him, get saved, and spend eternity with Him…than by golly, that’s a blessing…
And in that manner, sometimes the difficulties that come our way…serve as blessings in disguise.
When they come, we’re so apt to say: “WOE IS ME!!”
ANd Jesus is saying, “Nah, even in this, there’s a blessing.”
You’re going to lower that mirror…I guarantee you that.
And when you lower that mirror and you stop magnetizing your identity to all of these worldly things…
You’re going to see me, and let me fill your heart again.
And THAT…is a blessing.
A big one.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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