Summary: The blessings and woes Jesus speaks are spoken toward people whose priorities aren’t all the same.


What is your top priority in your life? What is your number one goal? We all have different goals, different priorities, things that are important to us, things that we would like to achieve in our lives. We might not formally put them down on paper, but there are certain things that are important to each of us. What is your number one priority? Some of your priorities might include losing weight, staying healthy, advancing in your job, saving for retirement, raising decent children. Those are all good priorities. But they’re also earthly. In other words, all of those priorities have to do with the here and now, this life, and not the life to come.

According to the Bible, as we think about our priorities in life, God wants our top priority, our number one goal, to be something that is not of this world. That number one priority is to be something higher than staying healthy. It’s supposed to be deeper than saving for retirement. It’s supposed to be more spiritual than just raising kids that are successful and stable in life. Those are all good things, but as we think about our top priority in life, God wants us to look up – to look away from this world, and to look heavenward, and to focus on something else. Today, we’re going to talk about what that something else is, that top priority, and how it affects the way we look at the things that happen in our lives.

Jesus spoke about this in our Gospel lesson for this morning. Jesus was able to look into the hearts of his listeners, and as he did that, he could see that many of them had worldly goals. They might have looked spiritual on the outside, because they were listening to Jesus, but on the inside, they were worldly. “My top priority in life is to make good money,” some of them were probably thinking. “My top goal in life is to be entertained. What’s important to me is to be popular.”

Look at how Jesus addresses their priorities in verse 24: “Woe to you who are rich,” Jesus said to them, “for you have already received your comfort.” In other words, their life might be comfortable now, but it wouldn’t be comfortable in the life to come. Verse 25: “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.” Those people with a worldly outlook on life might be well-fed now, but they would someday be hungry in the life to come. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” Those people with worldly goals would mourn and weep in the life to come. Verse 26: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

Jesus wasn’t condemning people because they had money, or because they had food or friends. What Jesus was condemning, was their lack of spiritual life. Their whole life was all about going to work, raising their kids, enjoying time with friends – having the good life, right here, and right now. It all seemed good on the outside, but on the inside, they had no faith, no thought of the life to come, no trust in Jesus. Inside, there was nothing spiritual at all. And that would come back to haunt them in the life to come.

This causes us to ask ourselves, “what is the focus of my life?” It is true, that we come here, and we listen to the word of God, just like those people listened to Jesus. But on the inside, am I really just a worldly person? I like to think that I am spiritual, but really, is my number one concern in life paying my bills? Is my number one concern in life recreation? Is God, his Word, his sacrifice for my sins, does that even make the top five of the things that I care about most in my life?

We all struggle with this. We live in a world that worships and adores the physical, earthly things of life. The Word of God, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, my future existence in the life to come – these are things that the world shakes its head at. And that affects you. It affects the way you think. Your priorities and my priorities in life are quite often upside down, backwards, worldly – God is at the bottom. If we are honest with ourselves, we must confess that at times, we have sinned this way. “Woe to you,” Jesus says this morning.

But what a comfort it is to know that Jesus, who spoke these words of woe, also speaks words of comfort to you. “I forgive you,” he says. Think of the sacrifice Jesus made to so that he could say, “I forgive you.” He did what he talked about here in our Gospel lesson – in verse 20, Jesus talked about being poor. When Jesus died on the cross, he was poor, he was penniless – worth nothing in the eyes of the world. In verse 21, Jesus talked about hunger. Very likely, Jesus suffered great hunger on the cross – there is no record of Jesus eating as he was tried and tortured. In verse 21, Jesus talked about weeping. Shortly before Jesus died, the Bible records how Jesus wept loudly because the people of Jerusalem had rejected him. In verse 22, Jesus talked about being hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected. All these things describe what Jesus went through as he died on the cross.

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