I run into more and more people who don’t realize there are two versions of the beatitudes in the bible. “Beatitudes” refers to the classic words of Jesus that start with “blessed are the…” and end with “for you…” or some variation. Usually, when someone refers to the beatitudes, the passage that person has in mind is Matthew 5:3-12
But there’s a different version of the beatitudes found in the gospel of Luke.
Before quoting the passage, I want to build some context.
The gospel of Luke mostly takes place in first century Israel. Israel was occupied by Rome. Roman soldiers and officials lurked around every corner to demand taxes and enforce peace. Most everyone was relatively poor.
A large crowd was following Jesus. And the scriptures are clear as to why this crowd was following Jesus: To hear him and to be healed of their diseases.
Sick people hoping to have their lives turned around by Jesus.
Jesus looks at this sickly, hopeless bunch and says to his small band of disciples, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20b, ESV)
Note that this version doesn’t add “in spirit” after the word “poor.”
Jesus was clearly saying that the poor (those who must beg in order to survive) are blessed.
That God’s kingdom belongs to them.
Seriously? Isn’t that a little insensitive?
Imagine going to Skid Row in Los Angeles, standing on a sidewalk crowded with mentally ill homeless people, and announcing confidently, “Blessed are the poor!”
What do you think might happen?
A riot? Laughter?
In my experience, announcing the good news to the poor almost always ends in one of two ways:
1. The people listening aren’t interested in the message.
2. The people listening are encouraged and grateful for the kind words.
Where I work, we have a Saturday night gathering. It’s simple in structure. We are currently watching a word-for-word film version of the gospel of John, usually a chapter each week. After the video clip we circle up and eat a meal together.
The film is really good and I highly recommend it.
(note: there are two Gospel of John movies. The one I’m referring to is the 2003 version starring Henry Ian Cusick)
Every week the video clip ends by cutting to black.
The dozen or so homeless men in the room are so engaged in the movie that they loudly gripe when the scene is over. They have even requested that we host a movie night soon and watch the three-hour movie in its entirety.
Jesus said he came, in part, to proclaim good news to the poor (see Luke 4).
And I can testify that the poor — the people who beg to survive — are eager to hear the good news. They want someone to say, “you are blessed.”
But, are the poor really blessed?
And I want to spend the next few weeks telling stories that illustrate this truth.
I’m looking forward to sharing.
See you then!