How Do Christians Survive in Middle-Class America?

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Audio Transcript

Does Jesus condemn the comforts of the middle-class American life? Some biblical texts appear to recommend so, especially Luke six. This is 1 of these definitely critical inquiries we get all the time. These days it comes to us from a listener named Lee, from North Carolina.

“Dear Pastor John (and Tony!), I’m a longtime listener of the podcast and want to thank you for providing me ten minutes of spiritual meals throughout hundreds of morning commutes. It has actually changed the course of my days as I drive to function.

“This morning, I was reading via the beatitudes in Luke six:24–26. They struck me like under no circumstances just before. Verse 24 reads, ‘Woe to you who are wealthy.’ I am wealthy by planet requirements. My wife and I do not reside beyond our signifies, nor do we commit cash frivolously having said that, we do have excellent incomes and savings. Verse 25 then says, ‘Woe to you who are complete now.’ I have under no circumstances been genuinely hungry in my life apart from voluntary hunger. Verse 26 continues, ‘Woe to you who laugh now.’ I have a joyful life and attempt to laugh regularly.

“Can you place into point of view Jesus’s woes that are seemingly directed proper at my life? Could you possibly contrast Luke’s account against Matthews, who says, ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness,’ and so forth.? I wish the blessings of Luke six:20–22, but I am not positive how to reconcile all of this with my physical life. Matthew appears a lot more directed to my spiritual life.” Pastor John, what would you say to Lee?

Let the Author Speak

In just a second, I’m going to study the text. Then, in case it is just not apparent, I’m going to point out what the issue is as we examine Luke’s so-named beatitudes and woes with Matthew’s beatitudes.

“If we are utterly devoted to Christ, no poverty, no hunger, and no weeping can steal our blessedness.”

Let me preface it with a approach. I do not consider it is a excellent approach to attempt to force comparable sayings in two distinct Gospels to imply specifically the identical issue. Jesus spoke comparable truths in several distinct settings, and he meant distinct issues by them. He did not imply contradictory issues, but distinct issues.

My method, and I consider it is sensible and honoring to the inspired writers, is that we let each and every Gospel writer report what he knows in a way that tends to make clear a unique which means about these truths rather than saying, “Well, Luke has to imply what Matthew meant,” or, “Matthew has to imply what Luke meant.” No, that is not the case. They do not contradict each and every other, but they may be distinct — substantially distinct. In this case, they are substantially distinct.

Sweeping Statements

Everyone knows Matthew’s beatitudes. They are definitely familiar.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are these who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew five:3–4)

Here’s Luke’s version:

He lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and mentioned: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be happy. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men and women 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 wonderful in heaven for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are wealthy, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are complete now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all men and women speak effectively of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke six:20–26)

This is 1 of the classic areas exactly where Jesus speaks in a sweeping and intense way and leaves you gasping, questioning if he could possibly imply what he appears to say in such a sweeping and seemingly unqualified way.

For instance, he mentioned, “Blessed are the poor” — no qualifications. “Blessed are the hungry now” — no qualifications. “Blessed are the weeping now” — no qualifications. “Woe to you wealthy,” which is the opposite of poor — no qualifications. “Woe to these who are complete,” which is the opposite of hungry — no qualifications. “Woe to these who laugh” (just laugh!) — no qualifications. What in the planet do we make of this?

Hunting for Clues

We can definitely wonder, saying, “Well, if there are no qualifications, then the wicked poor and the wicked hungry and the wicked laughing will all be blessed by God. If there definitely are no qualifications, then there are no godly wealthy, and absolutely everyone with a complete stomach or who laughs at a baby’s giggle is cursed.”

“We require to appear really meticulously for clues in the context. We require to stare till we see them.”

Now, I consider our method must not be 1st to say, “Well, he just can not imply that,” and contact it exaggeration or a literary device or some thing like that. Rather, I consider we must appear for clues in the context. Appear really meticulously. We require to stare till we see them. He expects us to discover these so that we can know there are qualifications.

Not all the poor are blessed. Not all the weeping are blessed. Not all these with a complete stomach are cursed. Not absolutely everyone who laughs is below judgment. How do we know that? How can we keep away from the accusation that says, “There you go, laying your predisposition, Piper, on top rated of the text, and will not let it say what it desires to say.” Properly, I hope not.

Unlocking the Clue

Here’s the clue. Jesus says in Luke six:22–23 that when men and women hate you on account of the Son of Man, you must rejoice on that day and leap for joy. Image oneself leaping for joy. What does it sound like out of your mouth? There’s laughter and shouting.

Jesus is saying loud and clear that in this age, there is a time and a location and a circumstance for wonderful rejoicing and leaping for joy. It is not the location that the planet expects. But there is a genuine time and genuine location for considerably joyful leaping and laughing — namely, when you are persecuted for the Son of Man.

When we get to Luke six:25 and see that it says, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep,” we know he will have to imply a sort of laughing that is not the identical sort as the joy and the leaping that he commanded in Luke six:22. Jesus does not speak out of each sides of his mouth. He’s not confused. He’s not schizophrenic. When he says, “Leap for joy” and then condemns laughter, we know 1 of them is distinct than the other. There’s a distinction getting created. That is the clue — at least 1 — that he desires us to choose up. There are other folks.

Applying the Clue

We must apply the identical issue to the poor and the wealthy. Is it all poor just like is it all laughter? No, it is not all poor, just like it was not all laughter. All the wealthy are not condemned just like all laughter is not incorrect.

“If we are not devoted to the Son of Man, no riches, no fullness, and no laughter can retain us from condemnation.”

Every 1 we choose up on and apply the identical clue that we saw with regard to laughter. What’s the important that tends to make some laughter blessed and some woeful? The contextual answer is, Are you laughing or leaping on account of the Son of Man? That is the criterion for the 1st command for joy. Joy is proper when it is accomplished in response to living according to the Son of Man.

Is your poverty an expression of your devotion to the Son of Man? Is your hunger an expression of your like for and devotion to and following of the Son of Man? Are your riches owing to indifference to the teachings of the Son of Man? If so, you are below a woe. Is the fullness of your stomach proof that you are for or against the Son of Man?

Devoted to Christ

My answer to Lee’s query is this. Jesus has provided us clues in Luke’s text to retain us from treating these beatitudes and curses in an unqualified way. Poverty and riches, hunger and fullness, weeping and laughter may well be indicators of blessedness, or they may well be indicators of condemnation, based on how they relate to our devotion to Jesus.

If we are utterly devoted to him, no poverty, no hunger, and no weeping can steal our blessedness. I consider that is what he signifies by the blessings. If you are my disciple, and you are acting in accord with your like for the Son of Man, you may well be poor, you may well be hungry, you may well be weeping, but you are blessed. If we are not devoted to him, not following the Son of Man, no riches, no fullness, and no laughter can retain us from condemnation.

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