Bible Reflection February 2019
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” Lk 6:20
Last Sunday’s Gospel of Luke presents four blessings and four curses or warnings. Some call this discourse the “sermon on the plain” because, according to Luke, Jesus coming down from the mountain, stood on a stretch of level ground and there pronounced His discourse before a huge crowd. He began with the exclamation, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” Unlike Matthew’s “sermon on the mount,” which explicitly refers to those who are “poor in spirit,” Luke’s declaration did not mention any specific category, although in all likelihood, he was referring to those who are materially poor since He was addressing His discourse to His disciples and followers who belonged to this social category. We can also take notice that whereas Matthew’s Beatitudes are stated more generally in the third person i.e., “the poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” etc., Luke’s are all addressed directly to the hearers in the second person i.e., “you poor,” “you that hunger now”, which we can surmise is also directed to us, meaning you and me.
Tonight, we will focus on this particular blessing which also happens to be the Lord’s promise to the Community for this week.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”
Let me now ask you…
WHO AMONG YOU ARE POOR?
Can I have a show of hands please from those who consider themselves poor? Thank you.
It doesn’t really matter whether we speak of people who are materially poor or spiritually poor. On one hand, we believers, as children of God, should not consider ourselves poor. Remember, our Heavenly Father is rich! Amen? Amen! And we shouldn’t be lacking in anything since Phil 4:19 assures us, “Our God will meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Please take note… He will meet all our needs, not wants. Although at times, He also does, because God is infinitely good and faithful. It all boils down to FAITH.
On the other hand, Eph 1:3 states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” This all-encompassing statement indicates that every blessing we could possibly need has been given to us in Christ. Christ came from heaven to earth from the Father to bring us every blessing we need. In particular, we believers, are blessed because God chose, before creation, to save us. Let me ask the same question again…
Are you poor?
And yet, poverty is a stark and palpable reality not only in the Philippines but in most parts of the globe. Latest data from the World Bank showed that 1/5 of the country’s population or about 21.6% of Filipinos are living below the poverty line. Look around you and you will find people in abject poverty; people who can barely make ends meet, mga taong isang kahig, isang tuka; people living on the streets/in karitons/under bridges; the scavengers; mga hampas-lupa, salat; dukha; people who think that God is absent from the landscape of their life; people who may have reason to say, “Hindi yata ako nakasama nang mag-saboy ng biyaya and Diyos sa mundo.” Would you then consider them blessed?
Jesus says, “Blessed are you poor…” Such a statement is contrary to common sense and to all of our expectations and wisdom about how the world works. “Blessed” extols the fortunate condition of people who are favored with the blessings of God. To be blessed connotes happiness, joy, and contentment. Jesus contrasts this when he says, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” There seem to be somethings quite wrong here, if not rather confusing; things that seem to be turned upside-down or inside-out. Don’t they? From a purely human perspective, isn’t abundance and wealth a sign of blessing, and destitution a sign of shame and woe? Are not the rich happier because of their abundance of things, the multitude of conveniences, the ability to satisfy all desire and want? And are not the poor more woeful because of their lack of those same things, their misery, their unspent desires, their inability to access even the most basic necessities? So how then can we say that the poor are blessed and the rich, cursed?
Perhaps we can put to mind what Isaiah 55:8-9 remind us…
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
To be blessed connotes not only being happy and contented, but also signifies a more profound reality than that. There is a sense in which it means to be held in the providential hands of God, to be on the right track and to know the implicit joy of being in such a state in accordance with its potential and promise. There are opportunities to grow stronger in faith since pain and hardship can produce the shining, rock-solid character that comes from trusting God when life is hard.
In this world of sin it is easy to get our values distorted. The things that appeal to our carnal natures seem worth striving for, but they are in fact like a mirage in the desert. If at all, they are temporary. And God sees a profound displeasure on those so blinded by their present fortunate situation that they do not recognize and appreciate the real values of God’s kingdom; people who are so engrossed in the pursuit of material wealth that they have little room for God in their lives; people who seem so complacent and find no need for Him.
So many are bartering away eternity because they consider this world more important, that it becomes extremely difficult for them to disengage themselves from their attachment to riches and to put their trust in Christ.
Matthew 6:19/20 exhorts us,
“DO NOT STORE UP FOR YOURSELF TREASURES ON EARTH, where moth and decay destroy and where thieves break in and steal; BUT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES IN HEAVEN, where neither moth nor decay destroy nor thieves break in and steal.”
The poor person because he does not have riches does not put his trust in them, he does not find his security in them. The poor person is more easily predisposed to put his trust in God and to seek in Christ a sense of security that in His providential hands, God will bring to him whatever remedy is most needed for his soul. Perhaps because so many material items are lacking among the poor, there is more room for God to reside, for God to be, for God to dwell. And where there is room, love, goodness, and righteousness can reside, But when there are no spaces, they cannot fit in, fill, and seep into our souls. When material possessions are all around, it distracts us from focusing on people, which is where God resides.
What better promise and assurance can we have when we set our minds on things above and not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2) “Rejoice and behold!… for your reward will be great in heaven.” If we cannot honestly count ourselves among the poor, we can do more than just take to heart the warning that follows, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” We must remember that the beatitudes are especially addressed to the poor and suffering. We can take up the invitation to do something about their situation. We, the more comfortable and more fortunate people with some resources at our command that are denied to others, are called to be the instruments of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that is one of justice, love and peace. For justice, love and peace to reign, there is a price to pay.
Finally, my dear Brothers and sisters, the Lord commands us in Deuteronomy 15:11
“For the poor will never cease to be among you; therefore I command you to open your hand to the poor and needy brother in your land.”
And lest we forget, the poor and the suffering have a special place in Jesus’ heart…
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of My brethren, you did for Me.”Mt 25:40
Delivered by Serviam Advisory Elder
Mr. Ding Sanchez
Feb 19, 2019