Monday, December 10, 2018

A Topsy-Turvy Look at Blessings

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”  – Luke 6:24

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever felt that in this crowded world of ours you stand out like a sore thumb? Well, if you stand out like a sore thumb because you’re following Jesus, that’s a good thing. If you follow Christ well, you will stand out in a crowd, because in this fallen and sinful world we live in, Jesus stands out in a crowd. Jesus always stood out, because the life he lived and the truth he taught were countercultural. Jesus’ values and his priorities and his teachings were out of place in the kingdom of this world.

In Luke 6:17, Jesus headed down the mountain with his 12 apostles to preach a sermon that’s usually called “The Sermon on the Plain,” because Luke tells us Jesus was standing “on a level place.” Due to its striking similarities to the Sermon on the Mount recounted in Matthew, some believe it may be the same message. In any case, Jesus’ teaching in The Sermon on the Plain was revolutionary then, and it’s still revolutionary today—2,000 years later.

The first seven verses of Jesus’ sermon (vs. 20-26) contain what we call “The Beatitudes.” “Beatitude” is just a fancy word for “a state of blessedness.” So, in other words, in vs. 20-26 Jesus reveals whom God blesses and whom God curses. And surprise, surprise! What Jesus reveals about the blessed and the cursed in these seven verses is 180 degrees from conventional wisdom.

Jesus lays down four “Blessed are you” teachings in vs. 20-22. I’ll list them one by one, but first, bear in mind: The word “blessed” means much more than just “happy.” It means “congratulations.” See if that fits the verses below by this world’s standards.

#1: “Congratulations to you who are poor” (v. 20a). How countercultural is that! When someone plays Super Lotto, picks all the winning numbers and wins 100 million dollars, what one word does everyone say to the winner? CONGRATULATIONS! But how many people go up to the millions of losers who picked the wrong numbers & tell them, “Congratulations! You picked all the wrong numbers. You were broke before buying those 20 tickets, and now you’re more broke! Way to go! You did it!”

But Jesus finishes the verse: “for yours is the kingdom of God.” You see, if we make financial sacrifices for Jesus and for others, we gain access to the riches of God’s kingdom that are so much more precious than big houses and new cars and hefty retirement accounts.

#2: “Congratulations to you who hunger now” (v. 21a). How upside down is that! As we were stuffing our faces last week on Thanksgiving, we felt really blessed, didn’t we? Did any of you drive up to a homeless person on the street, roll down your window and say, “Congratulations! You don’t get to eat half the stuff that I get to eat today. You lucky duck!”

But Jesus goes on to say: “for you will be satisfied.” For his followers who go without eating in the course of doing ministry, Jesus will give food that is so much more satisfying than a Double-Double or a venti Mocha Frappuccino.

#3: “Congratulations to you who weep now” (v. 21c). We say “congratulations” to the bride and groom on their wedding day and to graduates on their graduation day. But when’s the last time you congratulated a widow at her husband’s funeral? Or a young man receiving divorce papers from his wife? But Jesus adds, “for you will laugh.” For his followers whose hearts weep over the things that break Jesus’ heart, true joy will come in the morning.

#4: “Congratulations to you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man” (v. 22a). I just love being a social outcast, don’t you? But Jesus completes the verse: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” He congratulates his followers who are hated, excluded, insulted and rejected for standing firm in the faith, because our heavenly reward will be great.

By contrast, Jesus’ “Woe to you” statements in verses 24-26 refer to the rich, the well-fed, those who laugh now, and those whom men speak well of. Just like his “Blessed are you” teachings, every single one of Jesus’ “Woe to you” teachings is counterintuitive. In our culture we say congratulations to the rich and woe to the poor. But Jesus says congratulations to the poor and woe to the rich.

How can this be? It can be because Jesus’ values and priorities and morals are 180 degrees from the values, priorities and morals of the world. Jesus is on a completely different plane than we are. What we call “blessings” he calls “woes” because his thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways. His priorities are higher than our priorities. And we as Christ-followers living in this fallen, sin-cursed world desperately need to adopt Jesus’ higher perspective.

You and I need to wash our brains with the pure water of Christ’s upside down, topsy-turvy teaching. And each of us has to make a clear and conscious decision: When it comes to my priorities and my morals, will I follow the world’s way, or will I follow Christ’s way?

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.

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