Blessings and Woes of the Christian Life

Our text today is Luke 6:17-26: One of the most challenging things for any Christian in an affluent society like ours is to try and determine what difference Christianity makes in people’s lives. How can we differentiate the followers of Jesus from the people around us? They work the same jobs for the same hours and the same pay. They live in similar suburbs with the same sort of housing, mortgages, furniture and cars. They send their kids to the same schools and have similar spending patterns. Yet when we read our text in Luke’s gospel, it tells us that one way of living is blessed, but at odds with the world around us, but the way that goes with the majority, could lead to ruin.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor…, but woe to you who are rich.” In Matthew’s account, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are you who hunger for righteousness”. The text we heard talks about two different ways: the religious way and the non-religious way. In fact, both compete with each other. It is not saying that those who pursue wealth and comfort are not religious but they have put their faith in something other than what Jesus calls us to put our faith in. We cannot serve two masters. Consumerism is also a religious faith and very dominant in our community. We only have to watch the advertisements on TV to appreciate how religious its claims are. If you are thinking of buying a car, the car-company does not tell you that this car will reliably take you from one place to another but will tell you that owning it will change your life, will give you satisfaction, people will stop and see you driving. This handbag will be a touch of divine. The meaning of life, satisfying your deepest desires, is always a purchase away. Salvation is at hand. Of course, we must pray but don’t forget to shop!

Jesus offers a different vision to the cult of consumerism. He says that we cannot get salvation by accumulating possessions because it makes it impossible for us to embrace the things that are the way of salvation. Jesus is not opposed to abundance as the story of the loaves and fish is one of the examples telling us about God’s promise of abundance for all. Jesus invited the poor and the rich to follow him but the rich found this very difficult.

In the midst of a massive clash of cultures, Jesus is leading us in the new way. Jesus tells us what this new way looks like and this is the life God is giving us. Jesus is opening us to God’s values which differ from human values. Jesus wants us to care for the forgotten, the afraid and the neglected.

Just as God seeks us, Jesus wants us to seek God with open hearts, open minds and open doors. God will bless everyone when they align themselves with Jesus. Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people hate you…but rejoice in that day and leap for joy for surely your reward is great in heaven.” (6:23)

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