Luke 6:17-26: Jesus Teaching on Blessing: Part Two
In the Sermon on the Plain Jesus divides the world into two different types of people, they serve two different Gods, bear two different types of fruit, and have two different types of eternal destinies. The beatitudes and the woes lists for us the characteristics of these two groups, those who love God are those who are poor, hungry, weeping and hated; but those who love the world are those who are rich, full, laughing and loved. Jesus is using paradox and loaded images to convey important spiritual truths. Jesus employs some typical biblical caricatures to distinguish these groups, the poor, hungry, weeping and hated are the typical picture of the persecuted and rejected believer. The rich, full, laughing and loved is the typical privileged oppressor who is against God’s people. Jesus is using a victim and villain contrast. But these are not watertight categories, as we have said before there will have been those who were physically rich but they were poor in spirit. Likewise there may be people who are physically poor who think themselves spiritually rich and who don’t need God. Jesus is generalising on the basis of well-known caricatures.
Now we must be careful with these categories. It is easy for us to rip them out of the text and make them serve our own purposes. Many have done this today coming up with a little man theology that makes out as if God is always on the side of the underdog. So when you have a scenario of people on the government benefit complaining about the ungenerous government, we can make out as if God is always on the side of the person we insert into the poor position no matter the justice or details of the situation. We must allow the text to provide the content for these categories. Ironically to use a flat literalism causes us to miss the nuance that Jesus is seeking to communicate. Each of these characteristics is layered with meaning. The challenge of this polarity is to see which side we are really on. We have already looked at the beatitude blessed are the poor, and its accompanying woe to the rich. Today we continue looking at Jesus teaching on blessing looking as the hungry and the full, the happy and the sad.