Summary: Jesus shares several pieces of Good News. One is that God is with us in the midst of tragedies and scarcity. Another piece of Good News is that Happiness can be experienced in the midst of the struggles of life. Luke’s sermon on the plain tells us how.
Luke 6:17-23 “God Loves All the Little Children”
“Work hard!” “Dream Big!” “The world is your oyster to crack and grab the pearl.” We grow up hearing these phrases and others like them. “America is the land of opportunity,” we are told. “Anyone can become president.” We hear enough rags to riches stories to validate these ideas, but it doesn’t take us long, once we have entered the real world, to realize that these words are merely whitewash that covers up a dark, ugly truth.
The playing field is not level. We may be skilled, talented, hard workers, but it is not what we do, but who we know that enables us to successfully climb the career ladder. Most of the countries of the world are structured so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is certainly true in the United States where the gap between the rich and poor is growing at an alarming rate.
Another ugly truth is hidden behind the first. We don’t care that world is tilted in favor of the rich—unless it directly, adversely affects us. In a few weeks we will focus on the fashion attire of the stars as they parade their way to the Oscars, and ignore the plight of the homeless a few blocks away. We will immerse ourselves in making ends meet and looking successful (even though it may be a sham). We will ignore the fact 17 million children in the United States who live in poverty, the 40% of Africans who are inflicted with the AIDS virus, or the thousands of people who are still displaced and struggling from the devastation of Katrina.
This is the world in which we live, and this is who we are. Because of this, we are shocked by the words of Jesus. The world may have forgotten and ignored the poor and needy, but God hasn’t. In fact, in God’s scheme of things (better known as the kingdom of God) the poor and needy have the advantage. The tables are turned. This is good news not only for the poor and needy, but also for us.
TIPING THE WORLD RIGHT SIDE UP
During the time of Jesus, it was commonly assumed that the rich and power were blessed by God. They were blessed by God because they were better and more righteous—more deserving of blessings—than others. The poor and needy were seen as being under God’s judgment because of their situation in life. Jesus words contradict this popular assumption.
The kingdom of God is a classless society; no one is better than anyone else. Jesus died for the whole world, not just a select few. This is boldly proclaimed in the gospel of John. It is also demonstrated by God’s actions—the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the revelation of Jesus’ birth to the foreign magi, the rejection of Jesus by the political and religious powerful and the acceptance of Jesus by the common people.
In God’s kingdom, the tables are turned. The poor have the advantage. Jesus blesses the poor and needy in this sermon, and denounces the rich and the powerful. His words, like the screeching of caulk on a blackboard shocked his listeners, giving hope to the poor and offending the rich.
The words of Jesus carry a powerful message for us. They are words of hope when we find ourselves struggling with the challenges and tragedies of life. They are also instructive words that serve to remind us that happiness, the abundant life, is not contained in riches, possessions, comfort, power, or fame. Happiness and peace—true blessings--are gifts and can only come from the hand of God.
A LIFE OF HAPPINESS
Jesus words are both full of hope and troubling. To hear that the poor will have their needs met, the hungry will be satisfied, and those who grieve will be comforted is cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. To hear, however, that the poor, hungry and grieving are happy is troubling and confusing.
When difficulties confront us, we are not usually happy. Pain and suffering most of the time td not have the side effects of joy and happiness. Yet Jesus says that the poor are happy, along with the hungry, grieving and ridiculed. How can this be?
True happiness comes from sensing our need and acknowledging it. When we have a need we realize that we must look to God for our provision and protection. When we are in need we are more open to God’s movement in our lives.
True happiness is also the product of hope. The poor, hungry, and grieving look forward to better times—to God’s provision. Both acknowledging and need and allowing hope to be a part of our lives turns our attention to God—the true author and source of happiness and abundance.