Summary: Jesus stressed the need to help the poor and needy. It's a powerful commandment, but there are those who would warp it to meet their own agendas (rather than God's). But how would they do that?
OPEN: Chicago is just about to approve a new entitlement. They intend to give 1,000 unemployed families $500 per month with no strings attached (total of $6 million per year). The argument seems to be that automation is robbing people of jobs and so this is intended to put money in the pockets of the poor so they can buy more products – which will create more jobs and get the economy up and running in Illinois.
Now, there’s a serious problem with this plan: Among other things, Chicago is $71 billion in debt - not counting the $40 billion in pension commitments they owe. For that and various other reasons I doubt that this plan will work (I hope that it does, but I don't believe they have a "prayer").
But why would they do this? Why would they give this money away to 1000 families? Well… there’s a basic belief that the poor need help, and that belief is founded in the Bible’s teaching that God loves the poor, and He wants you to love them too.
Let’s take a quick look at this part of His sermon: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 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! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
This sounds a lot like the words from the Sermon on the Mount – but this sermon in Luke is an entirely different message. The Sermon on the Mount was given BEFORE Jesus chose His 12 Disciples. This sermon (the Sermon on the Plain) was preached AFTER He chose them. In addition, there’s several other details that are different between these 2 messages.
In the Sermon on the Plain Jesus is stressing that people who experience poverty, hunger, sorrow and hatred are special to God… and He wants them to be special to us as well. So… that’s the point of the BLESSINGS Jesus talks about. But then He shifts His focus… from blessings to curses (or woes): "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
What’s Jesus talking about here? Well, he’s contrasting the rich vs the poor, He’s contrasting the well-fed with the hungry, He’s contrasting the entertained masses vs. those who weep and mourn, and He’s contrasting the popular with the hated. Essentially Jesus is telling the rich and well-fed and happy and popular to start paying attention to those who struggle with life. He's telling them to try to find ways of helping those who are poor, hungry and sorrowing... or else.
Now, this is a repeated theme in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus tells the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ’Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ "But Abraham replied, ’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. Luke 16:19-25
Who’s sitting in hell? A rich guy who didn’t care for a poor beggar named Lazarus.
Then, in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells this story: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.