“Blessed are you who are poor, 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 and when they 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, 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, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
At first glance, these words of Christ are puzzling and even unsettling for many of us. Is Jesus really saying only the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the hated and persecuted in this life are blessed in God’s kingdom? Many of us living in developed nations have been blessed financially, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle and are given liberty to worship Jesus publicly. Was Jesus really pronouncing woes on people such as us? Are we really in danger of losing our place in God’s kingdom?
Don’t get him wrong. That’s not what our Lord was saying or it would indeed disqualify many of us from entering God’s kingdom. What Jesus meant was that those who have tasted the reality of God’s kingdom cannot help but develop a holy dissatisfaction with life in this unredeemed world. The people of God may be materially rich but still feel poor and needy in our spirit. Our awakened hunger for what God alone can provide means the things of this world no longer satisfy us. As we witness the injustice, the suffering, the violence and the apathy all around us, we weep for the state of fallen creation. We grieve not just for the darkness out there, but also the darkness within ourselves - our own unglorified nature – our ugliness and selfishness and sinfulness. And because we stand for a different kingdom, we may find ourselves at odds with the world and consequently be hated and persecuted for our beliefs. Nevertheless, we need not grow weary or discouraged as we sojourn in this world. Instead, Jesus calls for us to look for the reward in the world that is to come. And indeed, only he could give us that hope and assurance because that was exactly what he did. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God the Father (Hebrews 12:2). And one day he shall return, and creation shall be renewed. There will be no more sin and sickness; every wrong shall be made right, and God’s everlasting kingdom shall be established here on earth. Only then will God’s people be truly rich; only then will we be truly satisfied; only then will we rejoice and leap for joy as we receive our great reward from heaven.
Rev. David Lee