I love the beatitudes. But like most, I like Matthew’s much better than Luke’s. Maybe that’s because Luke shares both blessings and curses, and I stand in the place of those cursed, not those blessed. Like the people of Israel when they entered the promised land, Luke stands on Mt. Gerizim to bless, and Mr. Ebal to curse, for both are appropriate.
We usually connect blessing with wealth, power, family, comfort, and happiness. We connect curses with poverty, tears, pain, suffering, and mockery. And this fits what we saw on the two mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. From Gerizim, the blessings were all of these things, and from Ebal, the curses were all of these as well. And as is expected, the blessings were for those who obeyed God’s Law and the curses were for those who didn’t. So how do we interpret Luke’s rendition of beatitudes and woes in light of this?
Jesus blesses not the wealthy and powerful, and not the obedient. No, Jesus’ blessings are for the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, and the persecuted. There is no direct mention of the obedience of the people, and from what we read of His disciples, this was seldom the case. Yet traditionally, blessings come to the obedient, so perhaps we can assume that. On the other side, Jesus’ woes come to the rich, comfortable, full, laughing, and lauded. While one would assume that these are the people blessed by God, they are in fact those cursed with woes.
Should we assume that obedience to Jesus will lead to such blessings? Will truly following Jesus lead to poverty and weeping? And is wealth and comfort a marker of His curse? Have we completely flipped the scale here? That does seem to be Jesus’ way, teachings, and lifestyle. And if so, then woe to us indeed.