Woe to the rich! (Lk 6:24-6:24)

“But woe to you

Who are rich!

You have received

Your consolation.”

 

Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said the rich people should be cursed (Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις), using the second person plural.  They already had received their consolation, comfort, or happiness (ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν).  While Matthew had 8 beatitudes about the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted, Luke only had 4.  The blessed or fortunate ones here were the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the. persecuted.  3 of the 4 of these categories are almost the same, but the hungry could only go with those who hunger for righteousness.  Some later 4th century Christian writers, like Ambrose of Milan (337-397), have said that theses 4 beatitudes correspond to the 4 cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude.  However, Luke uniquely has these 4 more woes or curses in which he denounced or called out their bad behavior.  In this particular case, he challenged or criticized the rich people because they already had their consolation.

Bad behavior (Am 5:10-5:13)

“They hate him

Who reproves

At the gate.

They abhor him

Who speaks the truth.

Therefore,

You trample

On the poor.

You take from them,

Levies of grain.

You have built houses

Of hewn stone.

But you shall not live

In them.

You have planted

Pleasant vineyards.

But you shall not drink

Their wine.

I know how many are

Your transgressions.

I know how great are

Your sins.

You afflict the righteous.

You take a bribe.

You turn aside

The needy

At the gate.

Therefore,

The prudent will keep silent

In such a time.

It is an evil time.”

Next, Amos listed all the bad behavior that the northern Israelites were involved with. They did not like any reprimanding at the city judgment gate. They did not like anyone who told the truth. They trampled the poor people, as they took away their grain. They had built beautiful stone houses, but they were not going to live in them. They had planted wonderful vineyards, but they would not drink the wine from them. Amos and Yahweh knew all about their various transgressions and how great their sins were. They took bribes, mistreated the righteous, and turned away the needy at the gate. The prudent people kept silent during this evil time.

The assembly stoning and death (Ezek 23:46-23:49)

“Thus says Yahweh God.

‘Bring up an assembly

Against them!

Make them

An object of terror!

Make them

An object of plunder!

The assembly

Shall stone them!

They shall cut them down

With their swords!

They shall kill their sons!

They shall kill their daughters!

They shall burn up

Their houses!

Thus will I put an end

To lewdness

In the land!

Thus all women

May take warning!

Do not commit lewdness

As you have done!

They shall repay you

For your lewdness.

You shall bear

The penalty

For your sinful idolatry!

You shall know

That I am Yahweh God!’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was clear that the punishment for this lewd behavior was death. They were to gather an assembly against these wanton women, who were an object of terror and plunder. The assembly was to stone them and cut them down with swords. They were to kill their sons and daughters, as well as burn up their houses. Yahweh was going to put an end to all this lewdness in the land of Israel. This was a very severe punishment. All the women were put on warning. In other words, there was a jump from the bad behavior of the feminine cities of Samaria and Jerusalem to all the Israelite women. They were not to commit lewd acts. If they did, they would be repaid for their bad behavior. They would bear the penalty for their sinful idolatry. Everyone should know that Yahweh was God.

The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.

The bad behavior of the past (Greek text only)

“What has been wickedly accomplished

Through the pestilent behavior

Of those who exercise authority unworthily,

Can be seen,

Not so much from the more ancient records that we hand on,

As from investigation of matters close at hand.

In the future,

We will take care to render our kingdom

Quiet and peaceable for all men,

By changing our methods

And always judging

What comes before our eyes

With more equitable consideration.”

Once again, this is the Greek text only and not the Hebrew text of the edict. The king or Mordecai seems to indicate that there has been some bad behavior in the near past, not from some ancient time. In the future, things will be better. The king will change his methods so that he will judge all things that come before him in a more equitable manner.