Summary: Jesus' call on our lives is biblically radical.
“Blessed are the Poor”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
Right before our Gospel Lesson for this morning we are told, beginning in verse 17 that, “[Jesus] went…and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples were there and a great number of people from all over…”
And then a verse or two later Jesus addresses them beginning with, “Blessed are you who are poor…”
Looking out at the poor and diseased masses Jesus said to them… “Blessed are you…”
What are we, who live in 21st Century affluent America to make of this?
What are we, who live in a culture which is constantly telling us, in effect, “Blessed are you who are rich, you can afford to eat out in restaurants several days a week.
Blessed are you who are rich, you can afford a couple of cars and the price at the pump for your great big SUV!
Blessed are you who are rich you can buy a new plasma t-v…you can build McMansions for yourselves…
Blessed are you who are rich, you can go on lavish vacations and waste tons of dough on things you don’t need.
Blessed are you who are rich, you don’t have to live in the slums.
Blessed are you who are rich, you can pay for your own health care.
You don’t have to worry so much about gangs.
You can walk through your neighborhoods at night without the fear of being killed.
Your children can attend the best schools…blessed are you!
You will be served, rather than having to serve…blessed are you!”
What are we to make of what Jesus has to say to us this morning?
Blessed are the poor?
Blessed are the hungry?
To be envied are those who weep?
This makes little sense to us, does it not?
Happy are you when you are hated?
These kinds of blessings I think I can do without!
We Christians say that we love the teachings of Jesus.
But what about these teachings?
And when Jesus goes on to say “woe” to those who are rich, those who are full, those who laugh, and those who are spoken well of, do we hear Him speaking to us?
Here I suspect some of us are not so eager for a literal application of the Scriptures.
Here, perhaps, we are content to leave the teaching in its historical context, pointing at the Pharisees and other first-century hypocrites.
But the truth for most of us is that we are rich and we are full.
We probably don’t think of ourselves as rich, ‘cause we see the incomes and lifestyles of other people in our culture—professional athletes, entertainers, corporate CEO’s, among others—who have so very much more than any of us have.
But think about this…
…If we make only $10,000 a year, we are wealthier than 84 percent of the world, and if we make $50,000 a year, we are wealthier than 99 percent of the world.
The reality is, if you and I have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation (even if it’s public transportation), then we are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people for wealth!!!
In the time we gather for worship this morning, almost 1,000 children will die because they have no food.
More than 26,000 children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease.
That’s 26,000 Mary Ellen’s or whatever your children or grandchildren are named.
We have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and if poverty is rampant in the world to which God has called us, then we can’t ignore these realities.
Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth or just in a square mile radius of this church must consider how to demonstrate the Gospel visibly in a world where so many are so urgently hungry.
The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor.
The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who neglect the poor.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning and elsewhere, Jesus pronounces woes upon the wealthy who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming” upon them.
In a humbling passage, Jesus says to those who turn away from Him by ignoring the physical needs of His people, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Now, while caring for the poor is not the basis for our salvation, this doesn’t mean that our use of money is totally disconnected from our salvation.