Luke shares Jesus’ pronouncement of woes right after sharing the blessings. The woes shared are the mirror opposites of the blessings. I had never notices this before.
The first blessing Luke shared was for those who are poor. The first woe is for those who are rich. Jesus is not saying that being rich excludes a person from God’s blessings, but that trusting in man’s riches leaves no room for God in such a life. He addressed this when He talked about the rich man, the camel and the eye of the needle. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The rich man is receiving his “consolation” on earth. He has no “need” for God in his life. That makes him the poorest of all.
The second blessing was for the hungry man. The second woe is aimed at the full. Another word for full is satisfied. The person receiving this woe is satisfied with their life on their own terms. They again see no need for God and no advantage to having Him as part of their life. They will be eternally hungry once they leave this life. They will hunger for relief from torment and rest. These will be denied them just as it was in the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man saw the comforts Lazarus had and desperately wanted them. Abraham rightly told him that he had his comforts in life and was not entitled to any in this second life. His treatment of Lazarus while alive was proof of his lack of compassion and godliness in his life.
The third blessing is for those who weep, while the third woe is for those who laugh. Jesus is not talking about joyful laughter but scornful laughter instead. Those who laugh at what He has to offer. Those who laugh at the plight of the poor and needy. Those who mocked Jesus. They WILL mourn when they face God. They will have nowhere to hide from His just judgement. Their mourning will last for all eternity with no chance of change. Their final face to face meeting will permanently erase the smirk from their face.
The last blessing is for those who are persecuted in word or deed. The final woe is for those who are spoken well of by others. This is not talking about having a good reputation or about commendations for a job well done. It refers to gaining popularity by being a people pleaser instead of standing up for what you believe in. The people pleaser will say anything to get people to like him/her. It doesn’t matter if they even believe what they are saying. If it gains them popularity of followers, they will say it. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived wrote, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15). Jesus says to call sin, sin. That is not something someone does when they want to be liked by everyone. Just ask any politician. They will agree with you, IF you could get them to speak the truth for once.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your warnings. Thank You for Your blessings too. There is nothing this world has to offer that can compare to You and what You have in store for us. Again, it is not the reward that brings me to You. I come simply because I am drawn by Your love and want to return the same kind of love back to You, as best as I can. I most certainly fall short on meeting the love You send my way. If it means giving up everything this world has to offer to have You, I’d be turning it all away immediately.
As I say this I’m convicted by my own words. I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be hungry. I don’t want persecution. I like living in a warm home with food to eat. But if You took these things from me I PRAY that I would cling fast to You through that part of my journey too. I have been in want before and You met all my needs even then. I trust You to care for me in whatever position You place me in. Lord, don’t let me trust in money or others to be my source. Remind me EVERY DAY that You alone are my source and salvation. Help me sand against the lies of Satan. Help me stand for You and Your word in every aspect of my life. Please help me make You proud of me. “Well done good and faithful servant.” Those are the words I want to hear when we first meet.