Jesus on the Rich and the Poor

Jesus had many things to say about the rich and the poor. One of these messages is the following from Luke 6:17-26:

And[Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all              Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast     of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were             troubled with unclean spirits were cured.19And all the crowd sought to touch [Jesus], for power came out from him and healed them all.

And[Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor [now], for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you [now] and when they[now] exclude you  and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of         the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;  for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich [now], for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you [now], for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Emphasis added.)

As I was reflecting on these verses, I saw first that Jesus was speaking to a “great multitude of people.” There obviously were all sorts of people in the crowd. Some were rich. Some were poor. Some presumably were in the society’s elite. Others were not. There is also an emphasis on the immediacy and temporariness of the conditions of poverty, wealth, hunger and fullness. This is seen in my highlighting of the word “now” and inserting that word in other places. This is also apparent in the introduction in Luke 4 that talks about Jesus’ being “famished.” He was famished at a specific moment in time that passed once He had eaten.

A common approach to these verses sees the world as divided into two permanent camps: those who are materially well off, on the one hand, and the poor, on the other hand. But emphasizing the temporariness of these conditions gives this passage added power.  Sometimes, each of us is hungry physically or spiritually. We need to remember that these situations may be temporary, that there will be a better tomorrow. Sometimes, on the other hand, each of us is satisfied, physically or spiritually. We need to remember that it may be different tomorrow. “Sic transit gloria mundi.” All of us are in this together. All of us are dependent on the grace of God.