Backward verse of the day (#12)

I just finished reading through the book of Luke and I’ve made a note of many backwards verses.

The beatitudes in Luke are direct and hard hitting.

These six verses are the mea culpa of the Bible’s backwards theology. Jesus announces that the kingdom is near, and then proceeds to describe it for us. All of the characteristics that are considered blessed are things that we do not value on earth: poverty, hunger, weeping, persecution. The things that we enjoy and prize on earth are disdained in Jesus’ values: wealth, being “full”, laughter, being honored by others.

“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.

The interpretation of these verses (and much of Jesus’ teaching) is a fraught with Biblical land-mines and it would be easy to misinterpret these. Jesus is not giving us a list of good things that he likes and bad things that he doesn’t like. Rather, he is painting a picture of two kinds of people.

The first person is poor and hungry, weeping and persecuted. This person finds no joy in what the world offers and will be receptive to the hopeful message of the gospel. The second person is wealthy and satisfied, laughing and well thought of. What hope will he find in the gospel? Little if any, because his hope is in earthly things.

In other words, the kingdom’s message is a blessing to those who see their need for it. For those whose who find fulfillment of their needs in this world’s offerings, the gospel message will be as “foolishness.”

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