Summary: God’s heart for the poor is clearly presented in Luke’s gospel. Jesus continues to hammer home the point of good news to the poor and warnings to the wealthy. What should we take from this?
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If you think of yourself as extremely rich, raise your hand.
If you think of yourself as terribly poor and needy raise your hand.
What does it look like to be extremely rich today? What about terribly poor and needy?
In Luke 16 Jesus gives us a picture of these two opposite socio-economical conditions. It’s in this story of the rich man and Lazarus. In fact, Luke’s gospel is full of teaching concerning the rich and poor. Luke, the beloved physician, is inspired by God to write this gospel of Jesus Christ and as the Holy Spirit leads him along, he unfolds a message from God’s heart concerning God’s love for and ultimate blessing on those who are poor. And with it comes a warning to the rich.
It all starts in Luke when Jesus was born into a poor family. Joseph and Mary were not suburbanites from middle class America. Joseph was a carpenter, or stone mason who most likely worked for a day’s wages and hired himself out to build houses, or whatever, for those who did have riches. In those days the poor were at the mercy of the rich. Sometimes the rich would hire laborers who broke their backs working all day in the heat and elements only to be refused pay at the end of the day. The book of James, who incidentally is the Lord’s half brother, addresses this in James 5:1-6.
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!
4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
Did you hear that? James speaks as one with experience, doesn’t he? Perhaps he has seen his dad, Joseph, come home from working all day, exhausted and dejected, because the man that hired him refused to pay. For the day laborer like Joseph, this made the difference in whether or not his family had food to eat or went hungry.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “give us this day our daily bread,” most of us have no concept of what that means. In those days, many went without food some days. Not because they were fasting, but because they were poor and did not have food. Jesus grew up in the midst of a culture where poverty was the accepted norm among most people. Those of us who have gone to Honduras have seen some of this. There are poor people there who would hear Jesus words in a different light than we do here today.
When Jesus entered his ministry back in Luke chapter 4, do you remember what he read in the synagogue? Look at it again with me. Luke 4:16-19