Luke 6: 17-26
What if … all of sudden … your fortunes changed. For some of us that might be abrupt wealth or a job. Or it could be the opposite --- the loss of a job or a great deal of money. For some, it might be an unexpected joy or a deep loss; the birth or adoption of a new child or the death of a family member. For some of us a change in fortune may come in our health or physical ability; a cure in, or the onset of a deadly disease. For some of us, a change in fortune may be a wish long held that suddenly comes true, or something that we have cared for deeply that is now gone.
In 2005, filmmakers in the
In Luke 6, we read a form of a sermon or sermons that is possibly one of the most famous talks that Jesus ever gave. In the gospel of Mathew this sermon is called the Sermon on the Mount and in the gospel of Luke it is called the Sermon on the Plain partly because of their geography.
However, so much more familiar to us is the version in Matthew that when we compare it to Luke, we have to wonder. In Matthew this sermon is a blessing upon those who live out
To compare the sermon in Matthew and the sermon in Luke is certainly valid and interesting, but that process avoids the crucial point: what do we make of the words of Jesus for us.
Are we to spend our time identifying ourselves with one of the groups, for example, I am poor or I am rich or secretly thank God I am neither? Or does this lesson remind us Christians what we are to shun. Jesus says woe to those who have too much money, too much to eat, too much laughter, and too much respect from their peers. So, do we need to be shunning those aspects of living as Christians? Or are we to react with self-righteousness, assuming that we are the blessed ones in the
Let me share what I have learned thus far in my life. First, regardless of my own situation, regardless of my wealth, how much I have eaten, my emotional status, and if I have been rejected, in the change of fortunes that I experience or I see experienced in others, it is the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are rejected who are in a better position to receive and respond to the Kingdom of God than those who have security in riches, a stable environment, and personal well being.
This is an important reminder. Though I may sometimes feel otherwise, it is out of want that I seem to be more open to the Kingdom. Because it is in want as a disciple that I remember that God gives continually and unfailingly, because God is essentially a giver just as God is love. Martin Luther among many other Christians has reminded us that very definition of God is love; God is “nothing but burning love … a glowing oven of love.” God as love means that God is a giver. God who brought his people out of slavery, a "no" people, who became his people, is a gracious God, and that is what the blessings are all about.
We friends of Jesus Christ, who ultimately have so little to extol ourselves before the living God, are loved by God. Happy are we, fortunate are we; because God's divine favor, God’s unmerited grace, is now eternally ours. That means that this blessing is ours, not because we can or should be “voluntarily poor, hungry, weeping or rejected” but because God voluntarily loves.
Second, if all what you and I see in this sermon from Jesus is that God blesses the people who have it rough in this world and curses those who get a good run, then we are not only in trouble, we are not worshiping our God, a God whose giving love is boundless. When we look at the substance of the blessing we are reminded that God's blessings are not just words; the blessing about possessing “the kingdom of God,” being eternally “satisfied” in union with God, of experiencing “joy,” of possessing “reward in heaven.”
There is a reversal of fortune as disciples of Jesus Christ, meaning whether rich or poor, we all want comfort. We are not just satisfied with met needs; we want our desires as well. That’s why this lesson is counter intuitive for us as disciples, regardless of our levels of wealth, hunger, grief or rejection. No matter our political or philosophical persuasion the words of Jesus confront us with this persistent voice inviting us to move from where it is comfortable as disciples, from where we want to stay, from where we feel at home to a deeper solidarity with the brokenness of our fellow human beings.
Interestingly one of the very aspects of the lesson that first differentiates it from Matthew is that Jesus in Luke came down with them and “stood on a level place.” He stood with them on a level place. That is where we are to stand, with each other.
And finally there is a third aspect of this lesson for me. In 1936, Dale Carnegie published a famous book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People. Interestingly, much of the book is about giving. For example, Carnegie suggested that to make a lot of money, you have to start by offering presents, and then charge a lot for them later on. Although Carnegie’s advice has helped many people get wealthy, as disciples of Jesus Christ there is something troubling about it because by definition, gifts benefit others, yet Carnegie tells us to give in order to benefit ourselves. That is the woe to which Jesus speaks.
As Christians, we are to find our own needs met eternally, and in response, meet the needs of others temporally. The word “now” appears four times. So when Jesus teaches of the kingdom of heaven, it is not a faraway place that we go to some day. It is the present reality that accompanies him and those who follow after him.
What does “now” mean? In that documentary Reversal of Fortune we follow how Ted dealt with this change in fortune from being homeless to having $100,000. We also watch as Ted spends the money. Some of it was spent on friends and a good time. Some of it was spent on health, going to the doctor and dentist. Some of it was spent on personal possessions like a truck, and over time we see how Ted changes as he lives out this free gift becoming resentful toward those who gave him the money, the film producers.
On December 1, 2006, on the US TV program The Oprah Winfrey Show, when asked by Oprah how much of the $100,000 he still had, Ted replied “none.” Ted also mentions that he is back homeless and content with his current circumstances.
Does Jesus mean that blessed means a change in fortune … that all who are poor, sad, hungry and rejected will receive a literal or figurative $100,000 free to spend as wisely or foolishly as we deem fit? In 2 Corinthians 8: 9, Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” God freely gives grace to us because are loved, by a giving God and thus we become rich. It is a change for fortune for us his disciples but not how we may think. No matter how little we have, we will have “more than enough.” No matter how much we have, we will have “more than enough” because when Jesus came down the mountain there was a change in fortune, God with us to break the bonds of sin and to prepare for reconciliation with God. In the presence of the gift-giving Christ we are rich, content, living and sharing in the
 Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, 33, P. 65.
 Luke 6: 17
 Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People.