Summary: Jesus teaches us that woes serve as warnings about finding ultimate satisfaction with present pleasures.
Last week we began studying Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” that is recorded for us in the Gospel of Luke 6:20-49.
Jesus’ sermon was about the kingdom of God. He drew a contrast between two ways of life. He explained the difference between those who belong to the kingdom of God and those who do not belong to the kingdom of God.
Jesus began his sermon by teaching about the blessings of those who belong to the kingdom of God, and warnings to those who do not belong to the kingdom of God.
Last week we looked at the blessings of godliness, and today I would like to look at the warnings against worldliness, which Jesus did through his pronouncement of woes.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24-26)
When a person loves earthly things so much that he can’t get along without them, he opens himself to much suffering, both physical and mental. Some people, for example, have taken foolish risks to keep their riches intact. They have died rushing into burning houses or were killed because they stubbornly resisted armed robbers. Apparently they felt that without their material possessions life would not be worthwhile.
Others, when forced to part with their wealth, have been thrown into agonizing despair, even to the point of suicide.
In 1975, six armed gunmen broke into the deposit boxes in a London bank and stole valuables worth more than $7 million. One lady, whose stolen jewelry was appraised at $500,000, reportedly cried, “Everything I had was in there. My whole life was in that box.”
What a sad commentary on her values!
Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” began with a declaration of the values that are important in the kingdom of God. In the sermon Jesus taught what life was like for those in the kingdom of God in contrast to those who were outside of the kingdom of God. He taught that there are blessings that come from godliness and woes that come from worldliness.
But what is so astonishing is that what brings blessing or woe is so completely different than what most people think. The world values what Jesus does not value. And Jesus values what the world does not value. In the “Sermon on the Plain” Jesus gave four woes to serve as warnings to all who find ultimate satisfaction with present pleasures.
Jesus teaches us in Luke 6:20-23 that the woes serve as warnings about finding ultimate satisfaction with present pleasures.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. Warning to the Rich: Present Consolation (6:24)
2. Warning to the Full: Future Hunger (6:25a)
3. Warning to the Entertained: Future Weeping (6:25b)
4. Warning to the Popular: Present Deception (6:26)
I. Warning to the Rich: Present Consolation (6:24)
First, Jesus gave a warning to the rich.
Jesus said in verse 24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
The Greek word for woe (ouai) is “an exclamation of pain and pity for the misfortune that awaits someone in a certain condition.” So, when Jesus spoke about woe, he was not so much warning people about impending judgment as he was expressing his sense of sadness over the way that they were living. According to commentator Leon Morris, woe means something “like ‘Alas’ (NEB) or ‘How terrible’ (TEV). It is an expression of regret and compassion.” Jesus saw how tragic it was for people to live their own way rather than God’s way, which is the only of blessing.
Now it is important to note that Jesus was not speaking about everyone who has money or is rich, because there are some godly rich people in the Bible. For example, Luke has already mentioned Levi who was a wealthy tax collector. Jesus called Levi to follow him, and Levi left everything to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27-28).