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.”
5 thoughts on “Blessed are the Poor (If…?)”
I would say such a reading of Luke 6:20 would only work in isolation from the rest of the bible.
1. The fuller treatise of the sermon on the mount teaching Matthew 5 must inform Luke’s reading of it.
2. To sugest that suffering in this life somehow “merits” saving favour from God is a departure from any orthodox understanding of Christianity and the bible b/c it would deny that faith alone in the life, death and resurrection of Christ is what brings us into a saving relationship with God. You would have to say that Jesus came to save sinners by His life, death and resurrection … except for poor people; they didn’t need Him to come b/c they had already earned favour with God by their suffering.
This is simply a poor hermeneutic that tries to create entire doctrines out of a single verse in isolation from the rest of Scripture.
1) I agree.
2) It wouldn’t mean they didn’t need Jesus’ death, it would only mean that they didn’t need to “believe” (“have faith” … etc) in Jesus’ death.
I think the ultimate problem with the suggestion that the poor might be saved apart from responding to Jesus’ message is that it operates under a nominalist understanding of “salvation.” I think biblically, salvation *is* responding to Jesus’ Kingdom invitation. The two can’t be separated (into some “legal fiction”).
“…the promise of eternal happiness helps affirm the goodness of a God who allows the poor to endure a lifetime of suffering.” Hogwash. God does not allow poverty. It is manmade.
Sure, poverty is a result of human sinfulness. But certainly God “allows” it in the sense that he could alleviate the suffering (miraculously provide them money, etc) but doesn’t. Correct?
Poverty is NOT allowed by God. It is allowed by men, who use God as an excuse to promote and maintain their riches. Remember in Mark 10:17-25 the rich young man, who has abided by all the law, still will not be saved because, ‘“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.’ No the rich shall not inherit, because the are unable to enter the kingdom NOW, for they are blinded by the world and cannot see the kingdom at all.