Luke 6:20–26 . . . Bible Study Summary with Photos
The Sermon on the Mount, Part 1
Before we read and focus on the first part of Jesus' famous sermon, it's worth noting that the entire sermon, as Luke depicts it, introduces three areas of curiosity: (1) Jesus' tone appears to change from he and his disciples "enjoying" life (cf. 5:27–39) to him advocating a "teeth-gritting" endurance of life; (2) Jesus appears to teach that poverty is a blessing and that being rich is a curse — Are the poor more blessed than the rich?; and (3) Luke's account differs considerably from Matthew's, which dwells on the "spiritual" ("poor in spirit," "hunger and thirst for righteousness") while Luke's dwells on the "physical" (the "poor," "hungry").
There are a number of other differences between Luke's account of the Sermon on the Mount (6:20–49) and Matthew's (chapters 5–7): Luke's account is much shorter than Matthew's; in today's "blessings" portion, Luke's account is written in the second person (i.e., "you") while Matthew writes of the blessed in the third person (i.e., "they," "them"); Luke makes a greater emphasis on the contrast of time ("now"); and Matthew's account deals only with blessings, while Luke adds cursings ("woe") to his blessings portion. That said, let's get started focussing on Luke's account of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
At first reading, our Lord's words are incredible. Seemingly, Jesus has said that all who are poor, hungry, mourning, and persecuted are blessed, while all who are rich, well-fed, happy, and honored are cursed. Is it a blessing to be poor, hungry, sorrowful, and rejected? Are all the hurting people of the world so fortunate, while the comfortably happy are cursed?
The answer to these questions is "No!" There's no essential benefit in being poor; neither is there an automatic evil in being rich. Luke is careful in the selection of words that he uses to convey Jesus' message. Look at the chart shown (shown left) to see them again. Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor . . ." He didn't say, "Blessed are all who are poor . . ."
There's a world of difference between these two statements. Matthew's account limits the "poor" to the "poor in spirit." Luke's account limits the "poor" to the disciples who've chosen poverty that they may follow him. So too are those who are rejected and persecuted "because of the Son of Man" (v. 22). It's not "being poor" that is blessed, but "being poor for Christ's sake." There's no merit in being rejected and persecuted, except when you're treated on Christ's account (cf. 1 Peter 2:20).
Not all Christians are called to live a life of poverty, hunger, weeping, and rejection, but the disciples of our Lord were; that was their life, which our Lord chose for them, setting aside the riches and glory that belonged to Christ so that he could become the Savior of the world by dying on Calvary's cross. The disciples who followed him had to adopt his lifestyle and suffer his rejection. To become a disciple of Christ meant adopting his lifestyle. For the eleven, it meant poverty, hunger (at times), weeping, and rejection.
To live a life in obedience to God meant a life of suffering for many. Note the words of the writer to the Hebrews, speaking of those with strong faith who'd choose suffering so that they'd receive God's promised rewards (Hebrews 11:36–37). So, too, did Apostle Paul live such a life, as we learned in our previous study of 1 and 2 Corinthians: 1 Cor. 4:11 and 2 Cor. 6:4–5.
As Jesus frequently taught, when choosing between money and God, God must become your priority (Matthew 6:24). Money is not evil, unless and until it takes God's place (cf. 1 Timothy 6). The rich young ruler's money meant too much for him; when forced with the choice of following Christ or remaining rich, he chose richness (Matthew 19:16, 21–22). In the Lord's parable of the soils, the thorny soil symbolizes the "cares of this world" that choke out the gospel's seeds. And Luke will soon highlight what Jesus referred to as the "life's worries, riches and pleasures [that] do not mature" (Luke 8:14). When our choices become "wealth or Jesus," "being well-fed or Jesus," or "laughter or Jesus," we must always choose Jesus!
Consequently, then, are those who follow Jesus and become his disciples in for a gloomy, miserable, unhappy life? Not at all! The joy and the blessedness of serving Jesus is so great that what we forsake is no longer a significant loss to us. The parables of the "hidden treasure" and "rich pearl" (cf. Matt. 13:44–46) teach this truth well: Once the man had found the "pearl of great price," he gladly sold all that he had in life to purchase that item of greatest value. We materialists sense no great loss when we give up lesser things to gain the Greatest Entity.
What is it that makes following Jesus so great a blessing that men will gladly give up riches, comfort, and even friends to do so? Luke's account provides a very strong reason: The blessings that Jesus gives are eternal, while those that his disciples [and us] might reject are temporal. In addition, Jesus freely provides forgiveness of sins, peace with God, joy of fellowship with him, and opportunities to serve him. Discipleship leads to the greatest blessings, so great that man's wealth, health, and praise matter not.
And upon whom are the woes of Jesus pronounced?" Notice that Jesus also says here, "Woe to you who are rich . . ." (v. 24). Perhaps Jesus now speaks to particular people, just as he'd been speaking to the disciples with respect to them being blessed. If each "you" in vv. 20–23 might identify with the prophets of old, being rejected and persecuted by the nation, then each "you" in vv. 24–26 possibly identifies with false prophets (v. 26). Jesus could very well have had the Pharisees in mind here, since, later on, Luke will inform us that "the Pharisees, who loved money, . . . were sneering at Jesus" (16:14).
The point, according to Luke is that people must choose their values and priorities, forsaking some things in the pursuit of others. Not everyone must forsake wealth to follow Christ, but we must forsake the love of money. Life involves choices; we must choose what in life we pursue. Every choice will bring benefits (blessings) or curses (woes). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of his gift of eternal life, which is of infinite value. To receive such a gift requires the loss of our worldly values, forsaking other gods, and following only Christ.
Let us all pursue riches, but let those riches be only the ones that our Lord provides, amen.
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 What four qualities ought to characterize "kingdom people" (vv. 20–22)?
- Q. 2 Who is Jesus addressing (vv. 24–26)?
- Q. 3 If you could add another 'blessed" and another "woe," to counteract modern values, what would you add?
This Week's Passage
20Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.