The gospel is good news for the poor. Jesus emphatically proclaimed that the poor would receive the Kingdom of God (Lk 6:20). But must the poor respond properly to the message of the Gospel in order to receive this reward? Did Jesus really mean, “Blessed are the poor, if they repent and believe in the Kingdom“? (We usually interpret the parallel statement in this way, “Woe to you who are rich… unless you believe in me.)
Or do the poor receive the Kingdom precisely (and only) because they are poor?
C.M. Hays suggests that the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 might be read in a way consistent with Jesus’ straightforward statement in Lk. 6:20:
“In this unsettling text (the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – Lk 16:19-31) poor Lazarus is said to have received eschatological rest for no other reason than that he lacked good things during his life (Lk 16:25); there is no indication in the parable that Lazarus demonstrated even a scrap of religious piety. By this reading, the eschatological blessedness of the poor may be partially a matter of theodicy: the promise of eternal happiness helps affirm the goodness of a God who allows the poor to endure a lifetime of suffering.”