At first glance, Luke’s Beatitudes seem to make God’s reign a zero-sum game: if you’re poor now, wait and you’ll be rich in heaven; if you’re filled now, you’ll be hungry soon enough. But several clues give us a clearer understanding of the new thing God is doing.
In the previous chapter, Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector, into discipleship, and Levi gives everything up to follow. He hosts a great banquet for Jesus with other tax collectors, for which Jesus is accused of dining with sinners. Matthew’s Beatitudes has Jesus on a mountain, but Luke has him descend to a plain where the crowd had come seeking his healing power.Maybe in God’s reign the mighty are cast down to be in solidarity with the powerless and the rich sent away empty-handed for they gave their wealth to the hungry poor (Luke 1:52–53). Click To Tweet
Luke’s “blesseds” focus on the concrete human suffering of poverty, hunger, sorrow, hatred, exclusion, insult, and their opposites in the “woes.” Finally, the Greek word used here for “woe” does not mean “cursed” but is more like “beware!” A comfortable life is not condemnation but a caution.
Maybe in God’s reign the mighty are cast down to be in solidarity with the powerless and the rich sent away empty-handed for they gave their wealth to the hungry poor (Luke 1:52–53). Happy are those who enter into a new community of love with God’s blessed ones, and woe to those who distance themselves from another’s suffering yet still hope to gain heaven’s reward.