How do you know if God is blessing you? Is it because you have a good and healthy family, plenty of food to eat, a good job, good friends, and you are well-liked in the community?
We tend to look at material possessions, financial success, and popularity as measures of blessing. It’s how we normally “count our blessings.” In this passage, however, Jesus shows us that our system of measuring blessings is not always accurate.
Here Jesus tells us that being poor, hungry, sad, and hated is blessed.
17 And he came down with them,
and stood in the plain,
and the company of his disciples,
and a great multitude of people
out of all Judaea and Jerusalem,
and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon,
which came to hear him,
and to be healed of their diseases;
18And they that were vexed with unclean spirits:
and they were healed.
19 And the whole multitude sought to touch him:
for there went virtue out of him,
and healed them all.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples,
Blessed be ye poor:
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are ye that hunger now:
for ye shall be filled.
Blessed are ye that weep now:
for ye shall laugh.
22 Blessed are ye,
when men shall hate you,
and when they shall separate you
from their company,
and shall reproach you,
and cast out your name as evil,
for the Son of man’s sake.
23 Rejoice ye in that day,
and leap for joy:
your reward is great in heaven:
for in the like manner
did their fathers unto the prophets.
24 But woe unto you that are rich!
for ye have received your consolation.
25 Woe unto you that are full!
for ye shall hunger.
Woe unto you that laugh now!
for ye shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe unto you,
when all men shall speak well of you!
for so did their fathers
to the false prophets. (Luke 6:17–26)
It was a typical day for Jesus. People had crowded around to be healed as we see in Luke 6:17-19.
Take a quick overview of the rest of this passage. In verses 20 to 23 Jesus gives four blessings—or beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, hungry, sorrowful and hated.
Look at the word, “blessed” (μακάριος), starting in verse 20. The word simply means “happy.” So the first “blessed” statement means “Happy be ye poor.”
We’ll unpack what Jesus means by this in a moment. But first notice that, in verses 24 to 26, Jesus gives four corresponding “woes.” Woe to the rich, the full, the laughing ones, and the popular.
We’ll look at each blessing and woe together, as then the lesson for each becomes clearer. What does it take to be blessed or happy? Or maybe better, what do we not need to be happy?
I. HAPPINESS DOESN’T NEED MONEY
Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus preached a similar sermon that we call the Sermon on the Mount. Some people think that Luke is giving us a shortened version here. However, I think this is a different sermon on a different occasion. Preachers often preach the same themes over and over again—especially traveling preachers.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). He doesn’t say “in spirit” that here, and we shouldn’t be quick to think that we should add those words, like Jesus forgot.
There must be some sense in which he means that being physically poor can be a blessing.
Jesus isn’t being unrealistic here. Being poor is awful. There are people in this world that are so poor that they won’t eat today.
And it’s not because they are lazy—it’s that circumstances bigger than they—weather or governments—have ruled their lives and put them in the situation they are now. Jesus isn’t saying to them, “Buck up and be happy about being poor and starving—hey, you are blessed!”
Instead, Jesus is speaking to those who think that money will buy them happiness. You can tell this is the case by looking at the corresponding woe in verse 24—
Luke 6:24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
The “rich” (those who depend on their money) will receive “consolation” and comfort in this life. Money can buy happiness, at least for awhile.
The word “woe” (οὐαί) has to do with God’s sadness or displeasure over the way that they lived. They chose to ignore the living God and made wealth their god instead. They made their choice and would later suffer the consequences—eternal judgment in Hell.
Why are the poor blessed? It’s because they will receive “the kingdom of God.” In short, they, because they turned to Christ in their poorness, receive eternal life.
Just to be clear: being poor in of itself doesn’t save a person. Neither will being rich make it impossible for you to be saved. Being poor might, however, make you more open to the Gospel than someone who is rich. Historically, we see that poorer nations often have more revivals. When you are poor, you have less material wealth that you can depend on—you might more easily turn to God for strength and salvation.
Rich or poor, you must turn to Christ for salvation. You need to recognize that you are—to spiritualize a bit—a poor sinner who needs a great Savior!
I think the point that Jesus is making here is this: What are you going to depend on in your life? Money or God? Jesus says you have to choose:
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [wealth]. (Matthew 6:24)
You can depend on money, and it will be a great help to you in this life—but that’s where it ends—at your death. You have to depend on Christ to have eternal happiness!
II. HAPPINESS DOESN’T NEED FULLNESS
Luke 6:21a Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
How can being hungry be blessed? I know that Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). But he doesn’t add “after righteousness” here, so I think he is emphasizing something slightly different. What is it? Skip down to the “woe” part, and I think it will become clear.
Luke 6:25a Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.
Those who are rich and full of all they want in this life will end up in great hunger after they die. Later, in Luke, we will read about the rich man who goes to Hell. In his desperation, he calls out:
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (Luke 16:24–25)
The rich man (who doesn’t turn to God) will have his fill during this life, but he will spend eternity being hungry and thirsty like you can’t imagine.
So what is Jesus saying? If you turn from God and find your fill in things other than him, you may have a good life here. But it won’t be so good afterwards.
Jesus is saying that you need to trust God to provide what you need for your happiness in this life. When you do, you will be filled in the life to come. In other words, you must hunger for him first of all.
What do you hunger for? What are your greatest wants and desires?
Imagine yourself starving. I mean really starving, not the “It’s been three hours since I last ate starving.”
Imagine you’ve gone without food or water for days. Your lips are parched and cracked. Your tongue is swollen and turning black.
Now imagine a tall glass of water and your favorite meal laid out before you. Forget about what they say about not drinking or eating too much at first after you’ve been starved. Forget about the stomachache you might have.
How many glasses of water would you drink? How many times would you ask for seconds?
If our hunger and thirst for God was like our hunger and thirst at that moment, imagine the growth we would have in the fruit of the Spirit!
Our hunger for God needs to be greater than our hunger for wants and even needs. Here’s two verses to meditate on:
1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; (Psalm 63:1)
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (1 Peter 2:2)
III. HAPPINESS DOESN’T NEED LAUGHTER
If you thought Jesus was rough in the last two blessings and woes, take a look at the next blessing and woe:
Luke 6:21b Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Luke 6:25b Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Does Jesus really mean that laughing is wrong and that we should be moping around like Eeyore’s all day? No. We’re supposed to have a joy in the Lord.
22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: But a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
What Jesus is referring to is an overarching life and lifestyle. Are you living a life that is silly, shallow, and superficial?
There’s an epidemic in our culture right now—children who are not growing up. There are those who are in their thirties who act like they are teenagers. They live only for fun and refuse to accept adult responsibilities like marriage and raising children. They play video games all day and visit nightclubs all night. Some call them the “The Peter Pan Generation.”
These are the kinds of people that Jesus was referring to. It’s not wrong to laugh and have fun, but when your life is laughing and having fun, you have a problem.
Why are we blessed when we weep now? What is this weeping we do? It’s the weeping we have over the sorrows we experience in the world.
We weep for the loss of loved ones; we weep over the loss of dreams; we weep for family gone astray and relationships that are violated and broken. We weep when natural disasters destroy our possessions.
In a word, we weep over the effects of sin in our lives and all Creation. Creation is broken because of sin, but God has promised a new Creation—a new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21). This will be a place where, the Bible says,
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
So, you see, we can be blessed or happy now because we know what the future holds.
We will weep over loss, but rejoice because we know that one day all will be made right again.
That’s the big difference between those who laugh now and those who weep now. Those who laugh now think that this life is all there is, so you must have all the fun you can now. Stretch your teenage years out until you are 30 or 40, because this is all you get.
But the believer in Christ knows better. He or she can take the pain of this life—endure it—because he knows that God is going to make it right.
One day we will laugh forever because all will be right. We will step out of our home and gaze upon a perfect creation where a lion and a lamb nuzzle each other. We will walk down the path and see a snake hanging from a branch but not be afraid.
Friends will gather together enjoy fellowship and never have a conflict or disagreement. Instead, we will laugh until our eyes are filled with tears of joy. All will be perfect, all will be right.
Happy are those who weep now because, if we know Jesus, we will have joy for eternity.
IV. HAPPINESS DOESN’T NEED POPULARITY
There are those who want to be popular—they want people to speak well of them. It is a good thing to have a good name, a good reputation, but the desire for popularity steps beyond that.
The desire for popularity will lead to compromises with the values that Christ wants us to have. It will lead to us keeping quiet when we should speak. It will cause us to fall into temptations and commit sins so that we save face. It will make us hide our belief in Christ so that we don’t offend others.
Look at the corresponding woe:
Luke 6:26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Jesus says that the desire for popularity will only lead to woe in the end. But the way to eternal happiness is to stick with him, even if it means that our popularity will suffer.
Luke 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
Look at what men may do to you because of your commitment to Christ.
1) They will “hate you.” They actually hate Christ first of all. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). But when you become a Christian, you identify yourself with Christ. He becomes the source of your values, of your strength, and of your life. And so, you are hated because of Christ.
2) Then, “they shall separate you from their company.” This is what we see happening in our culture today. Christians either have to toe the party line or move to the margins of society. If you have a job, like a doctor, you are expected to do whatever society thinks is right. So if you refuse to perform euthanasia, you may lose your job.
3) Then they ““shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake” Your name will be mud among men. You will be shamed for your beliefs in Christ.
That doesn’t mean, however, that if you are a Christian who is a hateful, rude, insensitive jerk, that you would right in rejoicing in your so-called “persecution.” You are bringing your shame on yourself.
Jesus is talking about Christians being persecuted “for the Son of man’s sake. You need to be walking in Christ’s ways—loving sinners as Christ does and declaring the Gospel truth in love. That’s plenty offensive to the world as it is—that’s no need to be an unloving jerk of a Christian.
How are we to respond to this hatred directed towards us?
Luke 6:23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
He says “Rejoice…leap for joy”! We are to be like the apostles when they were persecuted.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:40–42)
Why can we rejoice? Because as believers, we ought to recognize that there is more to this life than what we can see. We know that our “reward is great in heaven.”
We also know that we are in good company—“the prophets,” the apostles, and many Christians since them have been persecuted.
For those reasons, we can rejoice. But do we? It seems that many Christians, instead of rejoicing in the increased persecution in our nation, spend most of their time whining and complaining and demanding their rights.
Why? Maybe it’s because they don’t really believe that our reward in Heaven is all that great. Maybe their eyes are too focused on being rich, full, happy and popular.
If that’s the case with you, then you need to turn to Christ in repentance. Repent that his eternal blessings have not captured your affections. Repent that he is not your “first love” like he ought to be.
As I meditated on this topic, I remembered the words of Jim Elliot, the young missionary martyred in Ecuador in 1956. His words sum this all up: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
What has a stronger grip on your heart? Riches that you cannot keep or God’s promises of life eternal?
Do you want God’s blessings? Or do you want to follow the way of the world with the woes that way will bring to you in the end?
Are you content to be poor, hungry, sad, and unpopular? Or do you want to be rich, filled, entertained and popular, even if it’s only for a few decades of your life?
Jesus modeled a life for us—
- Jesus renounced riches, not even having a place to lay his head.
- Jesus knew what it meant to be hungry.
- Jesus showed compassion and spoke truth even when it led to persecution for himself.
- Jesus endured ridicule, hatred, and even torture and death.
Jesus did it all because he knew that would lead to happiness and joy in the end.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Do you see the joy that is set before you as a Christian? If you do, you will be able to endure being poor, hungry, sad and unpopular for his sake.