Blessings and Woes
Blessings and Woes
Read Luke 6:17-26[i]
Jesus spent all night in prayer. Then he chose and ordained the twelve to be His Apostles, His specially chosen messengers, followers and disciples.
Coming down from the Mountain, He met with a large crowd. The crowd included the twelve, a large number of disciples and then a multitude of others.
The discourse that follows seems the same as Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, but there are several differences. Most notably, in Matthew, the discourse takes place before the choosing of the twelve, and in Luke, it is given immediately after the choosing of the twelve. The discourse in Luke covers some of the same as the discourse in Matthew, but it is shorter. Jesus repeated many of His teachings, and therefore this may well have been a different occasion.
Luke 6:19 says, “Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”
There was healing power in Jesus. John 1:16 says, “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” While He walked and lived among us, Jesus healed many. Psalm 103:2-3 says, “2Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. 3He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” This is one of the characteristics of God. He is gracious. He forgives our sins and heals all our diseases. This characteristic of God was evident in Jesus’s ministry. This characteristic is evident in Luke 6:19 when it tells us that He healed everyone.
God has not changed. He still forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.
While Jesus was engaged with people in this type of ministry, He turned to His disciples and gave the message of Luke 6:20-26. His message to His disciples that day included blessings and woes, or joys and sorrows. The teaching He gives on this day connects to the abundant grace He was pouring out. “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” Part of this grace is teaching us how to live in this present world.
Would you rather live with joy or sorrow? Would you rather have blessings or woes?
On the day Jesus came down from the Mountain, people gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. I believe this draws people to Jesus today. What draws you to Jesus?
Luke 6:18 includes the statement, “and those troubled by evil spirits were healed.” There is still a need for many to be delivered from evil spirits. The abundance of grace that comes through Jesus extends to freeing us from spiritual oppression.
Jesus’s teaching in Luke 6:20-26 shows us how to choose blessings or joy. At the same time, it teaches us how to live free from spiritual oppression. Part of His ministry of healing and deliverance was teaching us how to live.
We know the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart. Jesus’s teaching in Luke 6 shows us some of what that looks like.
First, we will need to observe that the blessings and woes listed correspond to each other. For example, the first blessing is “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” This blessing corresponds to the first woe, which is “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.” The relationship of the two is that they are opposites. The poor are opposite of the rich. The kingdom of God is opposite of having your only happiness now.
Another correlation is not as obvious, but just as important. Each joy and sorrow pair has a corresponding human desire or appetite. These appetites or desires are summarized for us in 1 John 2:16. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (ESV)[ii] The riches of the world as opposed to the kingdom of God represent the desires of the eyes. The desires of the flesh are represented by two blessings and sorrows. Hunger and weeping are set against fat and laughing. These both represent two types of bodily fulfillment, satisfaction and ecstasy. Satisfaction is what we experience when we have enough to eat. Ecstasy or thrill is what we experience when we laugh. The pride of life is represented by the opposites of being loved or hated by the world. It is what we experience when we seek for the praise of the world.
By addressing these human desires or appetites, Jesus addresses us where we live. We all have these desires. We all end up living to satisfy these appetites in one way or another. However, Jesus shows us how these desires should be used.
First, look at what he teaches regarding our desire for riches. He says, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” This does not mean that a person should have no property. Abraham and David had property. However, even the world realizes the contentment of holding possessions loosely. But, we as Christians recognize that all that we have comes from God. We are at our best when we recognize that we own nothing and are but stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
In another place, Jesus taught us:
19“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
God tells us to be content in whatever circumstance we are in, whether we have much or little. The Apostle Paul says, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.” (Philippians 4:11-12) The key here is not that we should be poor and living in a hovel. Rather, the key is to set our hearts on the Kingdom of God and live for treasures that last. Notice that the sorrow is that the only happiness is now. When we are poor in the sense that Jesus is talking about, we can be happy now and in eternity.
The first key to living free and happy is to store up treasures in heaven.
The second is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
The second pair of blessing and woe corresponds to the desires of the flesh. Jesus says, “God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.” (Luke 6:21) He sets this in opposition to those who are fat and prosperous now and those who laugh now. The key idea behind this is who owns our body. When warning us about over indulging the desires of the body Paul says, “19Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
We can eat whatever we want. We can drink whatever we want. We can hold our head in an industrial smoke stack and breathe deeply for several hours, but this might not be good for our bodies. Here again I will refer to the words of the Apostle Paul. “You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) As the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are to take care of our bodies. When we offer ourselves up to God, we desire to give the best. Part of offering ourselves up to God is to give up pursuing the pleasing of our bodies. It means also being willing to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. True joy and true happiness are much deeper than the surface of bodily satisfaction and laughter.
We have seen two keys to living free. First, we said we must store up treasures in heaven. Second, we said we must offer our bodies as living sacrifices. The third key is to live to please God.
The blessing and woe pair Jesus gives is the difference between being hated by the world or praised by the world. This corresponds with the human desire for praise, recognition and position. The world offers this and attracts many into competition for applause and recognition. The praise of others and especially of large numbers of others can be exhilarating and some say intoxicating.
Strong warnings accompany the discussion of this desire. Jesus says, “Their ancestors also praised false prophets.”
Trying to please others with what we say is a sure way to end up lying and misrepresenting the truth. It is a source of false teaching and error. So many lies begin with not wanting to hurt somebodies feelings, or wanting to look better to someone than we actually are.
I remember as a little boy poking a hole in the bottom of a conditioner bottle. I was playing in the bathtub and it just seemed like the thing to do. When mom found the empty bottle with a hole in it, she was upset. I wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble, but I wanted to keep my saintly reputation so when she asked if I had done it, I of course said no. All of the other children said no as well. Of course, they were telling the truth. This scandalous cover-up ended with us all being penalized.
This childish behavior is nothing compared to the cover-ups in government, industry and churches that cost people their lives, health, retirement, etc. This desire for other people’s approval is especially dangerous.
When Paul was speaking with the Galatians about straying away from the Gospel of Christ, he said to them, “10Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10)
The answer to this is living to please God. The New Testament instructs us, “Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
We have all received of the abundance of the grace of Jesus Christ. He heals our diseases and sets us free from spiritual oppression. In order to live free and stay free, we need to live according to the principles of God’s word. There are three keys to living free.
We must store up treasures in heaven.
We must offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
We must live to please God.
These are also summed up in the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.