“Woe to you who are rich. Woe to you who are full now. Woe to you who laugh.” What do Jesus’s woes mean for mean for middle-class Americans?
Does Jesus condemn the comforts of the middle-class American life? Some biblical texts seem to suggest so, particularly Luke 6. This is one of those really important questions we get all the time. Today it comes to us from a listener named Lee, from North Carolina.
“Dear Pastor John (and Tony!), I’m a longtime listener of the podcast and want to thank you for giving me ten minutes of spiritual food during hundreds of morning commutes. It has literally changed the course of my days as I drive to work.
“This morning, I was reading through the beatitudes in Luke 6:24–26. They struck me like never before. Verse 24 reads, ‘Woe to you who are rich.’ I am rich by world standards. My wife and I do not live beyond our means, nor do we spend money frivolously; however, we do have good incomes and savings. Verse 25 then says, ‘Woe to you who are full now.’ I have never been truly hungry in my life apart from voluntary hunger. Verse 26 continues, ‘Woe to you who laugh now.’ I have a joyful life and try to laugh frequently.
“Can you put into perspective Jesus’s woes that are seemingly directed right at my life? Could you maybe contrast Luke’s account against Matthews, who says, ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness,’ etc.? I desire the blessings of Luke 6:20–22, but I am not sure how to reconcile all of this with my physical life. Matthew seems more directed to my spiritual life.” Pastor John, what would you say to Lee?