Luke 6:20-34: A New Way of Behavior
“And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you and ostracize you, and cast insults at you and spurn your name as evil for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets. But I say to you who hear, love you enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those that curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also, and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners have those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount” (Luke 6:20-34, NASB).
The Lord Jesus is the Master Teacher, and He challenges those who are listening to Him to not just hear a collection of wise and profound words, but He causes them to think about the subject that has been presented. The LORD has His audience employ critical thinking and rationality to understand the underlying content of what has been presented. A teacher does not merely recite facts and figures for the students to memorize long enough to pass an examination and then forget everything. He or she gets them to think things through, analyze the lesson or concept presented and to make a conclusion based on a fixed solution. Whether the student in question adapts what he has learned and puts it to work in his life is another matter.
Jesus had an audience of hearers, but very few listeners. He is going to present ideas that were foreign or cast aside due to prejudices and established judgments on behaviors or circumstances. His audience consisted of the poor and destitute who were trying to survive under the iron fist of Roman rule and detested them as a result.
These same people were perceived by the ruling elite as cursed by God for both their individual sins as well as those sins passed to them by their parents. They felt worthless in every sense. Yet Jesus told them that they were blessed in the sight of God. This was something new and welcomed with joy and surprise. The poor have a special place in the heart of God because of their neglect and abuse by the elites and officials. The LORD is the defender of these souls and will be their champion when called upon by them. These are the inheritors of the kingdom of God along with all its abundance, with the reward and blessing of eternal life when they come to Him for redemption and forgiveness.
Those that hunger will be filled when they call upon the mercy of the LORD, who will not allow His elect to suffer a lack of food (Isaiah 49:8-13) or sustenance. Jesus has compassion for the hungry, and it has been largely the benevolent work of the church to feed and take care of those who are in desperate need of help and care. The ones who weep from sorrow will have their tears wiped away (Revelation 21:1-7) and will fill their hearts with everlasting joy as Jesus expresses in Scripture (Luke 10:21, 15:5; John 15:11, 17; Hebrews 2:2).
The world will see this and react with hatred and deny the followers of Jesus to be part of societal events and be thought of as evil and rebellious against the will of the state. This represented the absolute rule of the Emperors who thought of themselves as divine. They demanded of their subjects that they be referred to as “lord” on pain of death in many cases. The early church suffered immense persecution for the fact that, while they honored and respected the Emperor, they would not call him “lord,” for that title was reserved only for the Lord Jesus. The awful tortures and fates of these brave and faithful servants of Christ produced the seeds that would spread the gospel to all parts of the known world and would eventually be the faith of future emperors.
There are numerous souls throughout the history of the remnant church who have laid down their lives and gave up everything for the joy of knowing that, with a brief period of pain, they would be ushered into heaven to be with the Lord Jesus for all time. The apostles themselves were all martyred for the faith save for John, who was sent to the prison island of Patmos in his old age, and ended up being the author of a gospel, three pastoral letters and the book of Revelation, which is the comforting and encouraging message to the church of the final victory of Jesus Christ over the forces of evil.
In pronouncing the “woes,” or deserved rebukes of high society by the Lord Jesus (vv.24-26), He is not indicting the wealthy who use their funds for benevolent causes and times of need and to trust God to provide them with the ability to show kindness and grace towards the unfortunate. His indictment is against His enemies who use their wealth to benefit themselves, satisfy their own lusts and appetites, who delight in other people’s misery, and yet receive accolade from their peers. This is a verbal attack on the character and attitude of the Pharisees, who see themselves as above everyone in terms of privilege and self-professed piety, yet were the most hypocritical examples of religious figures. We still see people who act this way today.
It is so easy, especially as we see this world get darker with each passing day, to wash our hands of those who get under our skin and do plain, hateful things towards their fellow men. There are people in places of power, influence, finance, policy, and businesses who have absolutely no redeeming qualities and seem to revel in being hated and despised for what they say and do, in particular those in political power who feel it is their sworn duty to make the common citizen as miserable as possible. The actions of criminals, perverse individuals, murderers, thieves, blasphemers of God, and a slew of other reprobates tend to bring forth anger, disgust, and often a wish that God would wipe them out in one way or another.
Jesus tells His audience, and us as well, that we need to see these people as lost and heading to hell unless they repent and turn to Him for salvation and real peace. If we adopt that viewpoint, it will make it easier to treat them in a way that would totally change their outlook at others and themselves. The LORD tells us to do good to them (v.27) and to get rid of any bad attitude we might have against them. By doing so, your testimony will be a means of opening their eyes to the possibility that there might be something to Christianity after all.
He also tells us that we are to bless them (v.28), praying that God would open their hearts to the truth of the Gospel by helping them when they are in need, or have a problem and have no one to whom they can confide. We are to be living examples of the grace and mercy Jesus gave to us when we were His enemies (Romans 5:6-11) before we repented and surrendered our lives to Him. This goes along with the need to pray for them (v.28b), especially for their salvation and deliverance from the wiles of the devil. Stephen’s testimony and death for his faith in Christ (Acts 7) was the start of Saul’s transformation and his immediate change of mind and heart when he encountered the risen and glorified Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6).
Jesus also instructed us to submit to them, especially if they are in a position of authority (Romans 13:1-8) and pose no threat or opposition to your faith in the process. It is when the authorities try and put themselves in a place where oppression of belief is practiced that we are to disobey their decrees, peaceably if possible, but be ready to defend yourself if the occasion arises.
In this present political and social time bomb in which we live, the situation may come where we may have to resort to self-defense and rebel against ungodly authority and laws. Again, we are to demonstrate our faith and convictions by imitating what our LORD did for those who hated Him, in that He showed compassion and forgiveness; and we would do well to do the same as His representatives before the time comes for His return. It gets our mind and eyes off our own concerns and helps to strengthen our faith. Now, let us swallow our pride and bow before Him.
Much more instruction is to come.