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Luke 6: 20-26
Sometimes as I create content (free or for purchase) on CecilTaylorMinistries.com, I wonder whether someone who is very poor or undernourished or outcast can relate to what I'm writing, as I write from a perspective of being a middle class person in the United States. Am I writing advice or devotionals or encouragement that speak to them?
Well, the Gospel certainly speaks to them, even when I miss the mark. Jesus spent much of His time on earth with those who were favored neither by society nor luck. In His "Sermon on the Plain," Jesus says in Luke 6: 20-23:
Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed 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.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets."
Jesus turned expectations upside down. He showed everyone that God's kingdom operates differently from what we see on earth. It seems to make no sense that the poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted could be favored. Those are conditions we all want to avoid, yet Jesus calls them blessed.
While he tended to and healed them, Jesus didn't wave a magic wand to change the lives of the poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted. Instead, He promised that God is watching all of this and will take care of those who are on the underside of society as well as those who endure suffering in the name of Christ.
If you are in a position of poverty, suffering or persecution, I would point you to this hope in the Gospels as your encouraging message for today.
If you are not in such a position, Jesus has more to say as He continues in Luke 6: 24-26:
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets."
The word Jesus uses for have is a word used when someone has received full payment on an account. Maybe it's because life has been kind to you, or maybe it's because you have focused primarily on attaining wealth and status. In either case, Jesus says your reward is already paid, and to not expect the same fine treatment later in heaven.
In doing so, Jesus is offering a choice: A focus on the world's ways, or a focus on His ways. As we consider how to apply this in our 7-day practical faith journey, we are confronted with a big choice that is sometimes decided in small ways, sometimes in large ways. How are we spending our time? How are we spending or giving our money? What priorities do we prize? Are we willing to sacrifice in order to bless the poor, hungry and mourning? Are we willing to endure persecution?
Last year, when I was speaking to my church's youth at their summer camp, I told them about my recent decision to commit fulltime to Cecil Taylor Ministries. I told them how some people, even inside my church, were critical of my decision to starting a fulltime ministry from scratch, thereby risking my family's finances. Mild persecution? Yes, mild but irksome, that some of my Christian friends were missing the point of this scripture above.
F.R. Maltby had a famous quote: "Jesus promises his disciples three things - that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble." I wonder, in our 7-day practical faith journey, if we do not find ourselves completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble, perhaps we're not really doing this disciple thing correctly. Perhaps we're not paying enough attention to what Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Plain.