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Luke 6:20, 24

“[Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ ” (v. 20).

Blessedness—enjoying peace with God and living as objects of His favor (see Num. 6:22–27)—is the first concern of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. In the next few days, we will look at the beatitudes or declarations of blessing from this sermon, pairing them with their corresponding pronouncements of woe.

The first blessing of Jesus is upon the poor, to whom belong the kingdom of God, and the first woe is for the rich, who have already received their consolation (Luke 6:20, 24). To understand what our Savior means, we must first consider what His words cannot signify. First, Jesus does not tell us that every poor person is inherently righteous and will be saved simply by being materially impoverished or that all rich people are automatically cut off from heaven. That would entail a form of works-righteousness that is antithetical to the gospel (see Eph. 2:8–9). Moreover, while Scripture warns us not to hope in material wealth, some heroes of faith, such as Abraham, were wealthy, and some poor people, such as those who refuse to work and provide for their families, are worse than unbelievers (1 Tim. 5:8).

What, then, is Jesus getting at here? He speaks chiefly of spiritual matters, though He does not divorce them entirely from material wealth. In Scripture, those who lack material wealth but trust in God are special objects of His concern. The Lord is the refuge for such individuals, as Psalm 14:6 indicates. Since the Sermon on the Plain is addressed to the disciples of Jesus who had left everything to follow Him (Luke 5:11; 6:17–19), our Savior has in view especially His followers who have suffered material poverty to serve Him. Their leaving everything is an outward sign of faith, and the kingdom of God belongs to those of faith (see Matt. 5:3). Even so, those of faith who have not had to suffer material impoverishment are also covered by this beatitude. Jesus said that He came to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:16–21), but not everyone to whom He preached lacked wealth. He preached even to the materially wealthy, and all who trust in Him alone, being willing to leave their riches to obey Him if necessary, are by extension part of the blessed poor.

Jesus in Luke 6:24 declares a woe on the rich—“not on all the rich,” John Calvin comments, “but on those who receive their consolation in the world; that is, who are so completely occupied with their worldly possessions, that they forget the life to come.” They hope only in the things of this world and have received their reward.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We can be materially poor and put all our hopes on achieving wealth and comfortable living in the here and now, and we can be materially wealthy without holding on to our riches too tightly, being willing to surrender it all to serve God if that is what He requires. The issue is never with our riches but with our hearts. Let us regularly ask ourselves where our ultimate hope is placed and ask the Lord to enable us not to trust in our riches.

for further study
  • 1 Samuel 2:7
  • Proverbs 22:2, 16
  • Luke 12:13–21
  • Philippians 4:10–13
the bible in a year
  • Joshua 3–4
  • Luke 1:57–80

Coming to the Lord’s Table

A Blessing on the Hungry

Keep Reading A Manual for Kingdom Living: The Sermon on the Mount

From the March 2023 Issue
Mar 2023 Issue