Posted by: gbake783 | June 21, 2011

Luke 6:20-26

It’s easy get lost in the literary beauty of the preamble of Christ’s sermon on the plain (Luke 6:20-26). The blessings and contrasting woes sketch a wide circumference around man’s spiritual longings regardless of era or culture. The traits Christ upholds shame us – it seems that Christ values everything we despise: brokenness, neediness, mourning, and persecution.

Yet, poverty stands preeminent. First, although Luke and Matthew’s beatitudes differ in order, “Blessed are the poor” headlines each list. Second, Christ rewards this attribute with the greatest prize: the Kingdom of God. And last, spiritual poverty is the soil from which the remaining traits sprout: poverty leads to hunger, which leads to knowledge and mourning over one’s condition, which leads to change and resulting conflict with the world.

Although Luke leaves off “in spirit,” but records only, “blessed are the poor,” the meaning remains the same. Poverty is a recognized disposition, not a tax-bracket.

Poverty is, first and foremost, a disposition. David certainly had no need for personal financial assistance. As Israel’s Warrior-King, he lavished himself with the gold plundered from at least six different kingdoms (2 Samuel 8:11). He traded in timber, precious metals and jewels, and livestock. David’s nation-building paved the way for Solomon’s largesse. Yet in Psalm 86:1, David laments, “I am poor and needy.” Obviously, being “poor” has little to do with the size of one’s 401k.

Second, being “poor” is a disposition that must be recognized – because man is poor whether he acknowledges it or not. Paul, quoting David, makes our spiritual standing clear: no one is righteous, no one seeks God, no one does good – not even one (Romans 3:9-18). A good illustration is the church of Laodicea’s boasting. And perhaps their wealth was the envy of other Asian churches; no doubt the Laodiceans would have considered themselves a flagship ministry. Christ’s assessment differed: “you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

We are needy . . . whether we acknowledge it or not.

And when we acknowledge just how broken we are, God shines forth His rich blessing. We’re granted entrance into His Kingdom and equipped to manifest other Kingdom virtues.

Luke is often his own best illustrator. In Luke 18:9-14 he dramatizes spiritual wealth and poverty. The Pharisee stands to thank God for himself and his own righteous deeds. The publican bows his head, beats his breast, and begs for God’s mercy. The Pharisee, no doubt, has his consolation prize – the crowd’s admiration (Luke 6:26). But the publican goes home justified. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (Luke 9:25)?

I find the best gauge for my own sense of poverty is how well I listen to the Word when I’m not the one preaching it. My sense of need drives my attention. When I grow distracted, ambivalent, or worse, critical, I have obviously forgotten just how needy I am.  When I grow insensitive to the preached-word, I am telling God that I consider myself to have arrived, to have achieved spiritual wealth. In my smugness, I have my consolation.

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