PRAY - Open our eyes, O God: that we would behold the wonderful, even if difficult, things in your word. Open our ears, O God: that we would hear what you want to say to those who seek you. Open our minds, O God: that we would understand what it means to fear you, to love you, to worship you, and to walk in your ways. Open our hearts O God: that we would grasp the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hidden in Christ. Open our mouths, O God: that we would not stay silent about what we have seen and heard, but boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel to those you have graciously placed in our lives. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
RAGS TO RICHES
We all appreciate good rags to riches stories, right, where someone grew up in poverty and through hard work and good fortune, made a name for themselves.
- Country music singer Dolly Parton grew up the 4th of 12 children to parents struggling to make ends meet. But through an uncle’s love for music, she was given a chance to perform at a talent show – now 60 years later, she’s worth over 37 million and is one of the most recognizable voices in music.
- TV personality Oprah Winfrey grew up poor with quite a traumatic childhood. After appearing in a beauty contest as a teenager, she landed a job as a television correspondent and now 40 years later, her net worth is over 2 billion dollars.
- Arnold Schwarzenneger grew up in post-WW2 Austria, with no plumbing or phone and food shortages and riots regularly happening on his street. Today he’s one of the wealthiest action movie stars of all time worth over 400 million. And we could go on and on.
The shelves at bookstores like Barnes and Noble and the pages of Amazon are stocked with books on how they did it; some of them have documentaries available on how they started with a little common sense, some lucky breaks, and dedication and became successful over time.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
But let me ask you this: What is the motivation to read those books? What is the motivation to watch their documentaries and learn from them? What is the carrot being dangled in front of us that keeps us moving in that direction and buying those books?
Or think about it this way: What is the reward for following their blueprint for success?
- Maybe for some who buy those books, the carrot is wealth. We read those kinds of books because we are attracted to the money, and we want to know what they did to get it.
- Maybe for others it’s the influence. People speak well of you, or you have a lot of social media followers.
- Maybe for others, we imagine their lives are now full of joy because they have money and influence. We like the lifestyle that they have – they look happy, but I don’t feel happy where I am. They look good, I feel like a slob. They are always smiling, and I want to smile – I want the joy it looks like they have.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR
Then along comes Jesus announcing the kingdom of heaven, and he says Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, because you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
Then down to verse 24, Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full, woe to you who are laughing, woe to you when people speak well of you.
Maybe part of you says, “what???” That’s disappointing. That’s not the most compelling motivation to be a Christian. He certainly can’t mean that the way it looks. I’ve been working really hard my whole life to NOT be poor, hungry, or sad. I’ve worked hard to get out of the rags category, to grow some wealth, and now I have to go back?
Or maybe that’s not you, where you think following Jesus is a downer, but you’re going wow, ok, I really want to honor Jesus, but I already have wealth. I have influence. What do I do with those? Am I supposed to ditch everything now, because blessed are the poor?
I’M TALKING TO YOU…
First up, this is super important: tell me who is Jesus addressing? His disciples. So, if you are a follower of Jesus, sit up and pay attention to what is coming next. If you are not a follower of Jesus, this is good for you to see, but he’s not talking to you.
So here’s what he says to people who are eager to follow him:
Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours. What is Jesus saying? I have to thank pastor and author John Piper for a video I watched where he pointed out something I missed in this text last week.
Jesus is saying your blessedness doesn’t come just because you are poor. You are blessed because the kingdom of God is yours! You are not blessed because you’re poor – you’re blessed because everything that King Jesus is and has for you is available to you right now, here on earth, even if you happen to be poor. Your blessedness, verse 21, doesn’t come because you only eat three sticks of celery a day and purposely keep yourself hungry, but as a disciple of Jesus, who has access to the kingdom of heaven, you are already blessed (food or no food) because there is an eternal filling guaranteed for you.
You’re not blessed just because you cry a lot. (Verse 21), You’re blessed because as a disciple of Jesus, who has access to all that he and his kingdom is yours, there is an eternal joy that will be yours!
You’re not blessed just because people hate you, or insult you. But when as a disciple of Jesus, you have centered your life around Christ, the word of God, his kingdom, his will – and people give you hassle for it, or push you out of their lives for it, or make things miserable for you because of your desire to follow Jesus…
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. Take note (that means grab a pen or a highlighter and underline or circle what’s coming next, it is very important) take note – your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
Rejoicing! Leaping for joy! You’re not blessed because people hate you – you’re blessed because your reward is great in heaven! The encouragement here is to look beyond our current circumstances and see the bigger picture.
- Romans 8:18 – present sufferings not worth comparing to the glory
- 2 Cor 4:17 – our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory
The kingdom is yours! Your reward is already great in heaven! That should produce joy in you! There should be rejoicing that God has called you to himself, and that you belong to him! The people of God have always been ridiculed and excluded by people who should welcome them, so if that happens to you, that’s one of the ways (not the only way) you know you’re living in the right kingdom!
THE OUTCOME OF JOY
So what then is the outcome of that joy? What does that joy produce in us? It produces radical and generous love!
Jesus moves on with his sermon here in Luke 6, but starts verse 27 with: “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
If the people listening were Jewish, which I imagine a lot if not most of them were, this would land a little sideways for them, just like it does for us. They were familiar with Leviticus 19:18, “do not take revenge or hold a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”
Jews would have understood “your neighbor” to mean that you mean someone who feels the same way about masks and vaccines and which oils are essential, which political party are the intelligent ones and which party are the ones without brains; your neighbor is someone who agrees which way of educating your children is the best – public, private or homeschool.
But Jesus drops the bomb on that in verse 32, If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. “But I say love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you.”
If your “neighbors” are those who think like you, your enemies are those who don’t. This isn’t a passive love, where sure, I (generally speaking) “Love” them, like we should love everyone. No, this is an active love – DO GOOD. Actions are involved.
Why? Why should you love your enemies and do good? What is the motivation to follow this? Somebody help me out? Let me give you a hint – you just underlined this a second ago!
Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, BECAUSE YOUR REWARD IS GREAT IN HEAVEN! You might be experiencing poverty, you might be weeping, you might not have basic necessities in abundance right now, but trust me: THE KINGDOM IS YOURS, THE KING IS WORKING 10,000 THINGS TOGETHER IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW FOR YOUR GOOD AND HIS GLORY, and your reward is great in heaven.
So love your enemies. Do good to people who hate you. What do you have to lose? Everything that truly matters is already yours. Love your enemies by doing good for them! So the actions are involved. And so are our words: v 28 Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To bless someone is to ask God’s favor on them, to appeal to God for that person. This is not the same as overlooking their offense. This is not to ignore the sinfulness or the hurtfulness of their actions. To bless them is to ask God to intervene in their lives, to show them grace and offer forgiveness. Why? Because the kingdom of God is yours, and your reward is great in heaven.
WHAT IF I’M NOT POOR?
Now. Maybe you’re not poor. You’re not hungry. You’re not weeping right now. What should you do?
- “If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also.
- And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either.
- Give to anyone who asks you,
- and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.
- Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.
The concept here is if you have things to give, don’t hold back. Maybe you’ve always thought of turning the other cheek as something where someone hits you, and you turn your head to invite them to hit you again. But in this context, where you’re giving a coat and so on, the idea of turning the other cheek is that when you first helped them you were taken advantage of last time you helped someone. What they did was like a slap in the face to you.
Jesus is saying, because the kingdom is yours and your reward is already great in heaven, instead of fighting back or getting revenge, you are free to help them again, even if they slap you in the face again. E.g – if it’s cold and someone steals your coat, that’s a slap in the face. But, if that same person who steals your coat then asks you for your shirt, another slap in the face, don’t hold back – give it to them. One commentator says these words of Jesus are meant to bring shock to the listener, to show us just how drastic this is to our own thinking. He says to follow verse 29 literally would result in you walking away naked!
DO I HAVE TO?
Jesus isn’t setting these up as a new 10 Commandments – you have to do this in order to be right with God. That same commentator says, “He’s saying this is what love looks like when you [believe] that God will see, that he will reward the faithful, and that he will be just in his final evaluation. Without such a theological view or reality, the ethics of Jesus wilt into futility and foolishness as the follower is exposed with no hope of justice. To commit to a radical love, one must see that God honors such a commitment to reflect his grace. (Bock 595)”
In other words – if you lose sight of the kingdom that is here already and the reward of the kingdom that is yet to come, all of this will seem ridiculous, and you won’t understand why you should let yourself get run over by other people. If you’re not a Christian, you’re thinking, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!” But if you live out of the mindset that the stuff of this world is not the final story, you can live with a radical kind of love that makes the watching world go, “who are these people?? Who would do that?”
They aren’t going to say that if we’re all only sharing our food and clothes and money with our friends. That’s what verses 32-34 say. You don’t get extra credit for loving the people who love you, or inviting people over to dinner who can return the favor, or for letting a dear friend borrow your new car. Those things are good, and we can be generous with friends and family, but those things don’t flow out of a heart that has been changed by the gospel.
But what does, Jesus repeats, love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return (From them). And here is the motivation:
Then, your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. FOR he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
WHAT’S THE MOTIVATION?
- Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High… you’ll have the Father’s pleasure and his affirmation because you’ve been a faithful child of God. This radical love flowing from a deep satisfaction in knowing you belong to the kingdom of God is one of the ways you are identified as his child.
- When you love like this it tells the world something about what God is like! Be gracious to the ungrateful and evil because your heavenly Father is gracious to the ungrateful and evil! Be merciful because he is merciful.
Romans 5:6-8 – for if while we were helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies, Christ died for us…Jesus loved us and did good for us while we were using the things of this world on ourselves, pursuing other things instead of his name!
In the gospel of Luke alone, we’ll see Jesus poor, hungry, weeping, and insulted, and yet full of joy because of the bigger picture.
Even as they nailed him to the cross, Jesus blessed those who cursed him, and prayed for those who mistreated him. “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” I wonder if that’s not the same thing he prayed to the Father about me. Father forgive Rodney. He doesn't realize that he’s chasing things in this life that are temporary. He doesn’t realize that he is saved by grace, not by works. Open his eyes to see what has already been done for him.
Love your enemies: Jesus did that for me.
Do what is good: Jesus did that for me.
Lend, expecting nothing in return: Jesus gave his life for me, gave his righteousness TO me, shares his inheritance in heaven with me, knowing there is nothing I could ever do to pay him back.
Disciples. Followers of Jesus. The kingdom is yours. Your reward is great. Not because you have earned it or have to earn it. It’s a great reward because God knows what he’s calling us to, and he honors faithfulness. Regardless of your economic or physical or emotional status, you are loved with the full pleasure of God the Father. Be encouraged and strengthened today.
If you are not a follower of Jesus, not a disciple learning from him, then none of this we talked about today applies to you. Your reward is in this life only. That’s what 24-26 is all about. Don’t stay there. Repent of your sin, turn to Jesus today, trust him with your life, and begin to follow him. His promise is that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. So we encourage you to do that today.
Bock, Darrell L. 1994. Luke: 1:1–9:50. Vol. 1. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Green, Joel 1997. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co
Piper, John - (https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/the-kind-of-people-god-blesses)