Luke 6:20-26 (ESV)
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
It was common in the ancient world to pronounce blessings. In its literal sense, “blessed” means “happy,” describing the person who encounters good fortune from God. Jesus goes on to state what makes a happy person. The first happy people are the poor. What?! The poor?! The poor see their need and are driven to God in desperation. Jesus said the next group of happy people is the hungry. Sound just as strange? These are the people who long for God’s kingdom. They are hungry for righteousness and know real satisfaction can only be found in the Lord. The third group Jesus describes as happy seems even more odd. He said those who weep or cry are blessed. That seems like a contradiction, unless they are weeping tears of joy. But Jesus wasn’t talking about “happy tears” here. He truly meant that those who sorrow are blessed. When we take an honest look at the world around us and even our own choices, we see sin and failure. The one who is broken and sad about things not being the way they should be is blessed. Finally, the happy people are those who are persecuted. Those who are hated, left off the party invitation lists, and mocked are blessed. This doesn’t mean it’s good when others hate us for treating them like jerks, but when we gently and respectfully stand up for God and his word and are despised as a result, we will receive God’s good fortune, reward in the life to come.
Jesus described four parallel reasons to grieve. The woes were a pronouncement of displeasure. According to Jesus, those who are rich, full, laughing, and popular have cause for concern. These are the ones “enjoying” this life so much that they dread the thought of letting it go. They see no need for repentance. In fact, real repentance may include giving up some of the pleasurable things they love and enjoy, so they avoid it. Jesus says to these people, “Woe!” As we pray for our families, our children, our friends, and even ourselves today, let’s remember to keep our view of life consistent with God’s. Maybe we should pray less for money, good times, and popularity, and pray a little more for a deep recognition of our spiritual need, a longing for things to be done God’s way, a hatred of sin, and a commitment to stand for truth, no matter the cost.