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.

The questions for Edom (Jer 49:7-49:9)

“Concerning Edom!

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

‘Is there no longer wisdom

In Teman?

Has counsel perished

From the prudent?

Has their wisdom vanished?

Flee!

Turn back!

Get down low!

O inhabitants of Dedan!

I will bring

The calamity of Esau

Upon him,

Like the time

When I punished him.

If grape-gatherers

Came to you,

Would they not

Leave gleanings?

If thieves came

By night,

Would they not pillage

Only what they wanted?”

Edom was south of the Dead Sea, south of Moab and south of Judah. Its biblical origin was the place where Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, went to live in Genesis, chapter 36. Yahweh has a series of questions for Edom. What happened to their wisdom, especially at Teman, perhaps a tribal group in Edom, since Teman was the name of the grandson of Esau. One of Job’s friends Eliphaz was a Temanite. Obadiah, an almost unknown minor prophet, seemed to take some of this diatribe against Edom into most of his work. Something has happened to the counsel and prudence of Edom. Has all their wisdom vanished? Dedan was a tribe involved in commerce. Both grape gatherers and thieves would leave something behind. They would not take everything. Thus the grape pickers would leave some grapes for the later gleaners to come along and get some of these overlooked grapes. The same is true about nightly thieves who would only take what they needed.

True and false wisdom (Sir 19:20-19:22)

“The whole of wisdom

Is fear of the Lord.

In all wisdom,

There is the fulfillment

Of the law.

There is knowledge

Of his omnipresence.

When a slave cries

To his master.

‘I will not act

As you wish’

Even if later he does it,

He angers the one

Who supports him.

The knowledge of wickedness

Is not wisdom.

There is not prudence

In the counsel of sinners.”

Sirach reminds us of the difference between true and false wisdom. True and all wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord. True wisdom follows the law, knowing that God is everywhere. Sirach uses a comparison between a slave and us. We should never say to the Lord that we are not going to do something, even if we do it later. We will anger God, the one who supports us. On the other hand, the knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom. There is no prudence among the counsel of sinners.

Prudence (Sir 8:1-8:3)

“Do not contend with the powerful.

Otherwise you may fall into their hands.

Do not quarrel with the rich.

Otherwise their resources may outweigh yours.

Gold has ruined many.

Gold has perverted the minds of kings.

Do not argue with the loud of mouth.

Do not heap wood on their fire.”

Sirach has some common sense prudent statements about life. Do not argue with powerful people or you might fall into their hands. Do not quarrel with the rich because they have more resources than you have. Don’t let your life be ruined by gold, as some kings have. Don’t argue with loud-mouthed people because you are only putting more wood on their fire.

Wisdom is greater than any good (Wis 8:5-8:8)

“If riches are a desirable possession in life,

What is richer than wisdom?

Wisdom is the active cause

Of all things.

If understanding is effective,

Who more than she

Is the fashioner of what exists?

If any one loves righteousness,

Her labors are virtues.

She teaches self-control.

She teaches prudence.

She teaches justice.

She teaches courage.

Nothing in life

Is more profitable

For mortals than these.

If anyone longs for wide experience,

She knows the things of old.

She infers the things to come.

She understands turns of speech.

She understands the solutions of riddles.

She has foreknowledge of signs.

She has foreknowledge of wonders.

She has foreknowledge of the outcome of seasons.

She has foreknowledge of the outcome of times.”

Wisdom is greater than any good there is, not only material things, but spiritual or conceptual values also. Everyone wants riches (πλοῦτός) so that the most desirable possession in life is wisdom (σοφίας), the cause of all things. If you want understanding (φρόνησις), then you need wisdom. If you love righteousness (δικαιοσύνην ἀγαπᾷ), you need wisdom. Wisdom teaches the four great Greek cardinal virtues of self-control, prudence, justice, and courage. Wisdom knows about the past and the future. She can solve riddles. She also has foreknowledge of signs and wonders, as well as the outcome of the seasons and the times to come.

Fear of Yahweh (Prov 19:23-19:25)

“The fear of Yahweh is life indeed.

Filled with the fear of Yahweh,

One rests secure.

Filled with the fear of Yahweh,

One suffers no harm.

The lazy person buries a hand in the dish.

He will not even bring it back to the mouth.

Strike a scoffer.

The simple will learn prudence.

Reprove the intelligent.

They will gain knowledge.”

The fear of God is life itself. If you fear Yahweh, you will always be secure and suffer no harm. Some people are so lazy they do not even feed themselves, but let her hands stay on the dish buried in their food. The simple can learn prudence. The intelligent can gain knowledge. Everything stems from the fear of Yahweh.

Lady wisdom speaks (Prov 8:1-8:11)

“Does not wisdom call?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights,

Beside the way,

At the crossroads,

She takes her stand.

Beside the gates

In front of the town,

At the entrance of the portals,

She cries out.

‘To you!

O people!

I call!

My cry is to all that live.

O simple ones!

Learn prudence!

Acquire intelligence!

You who lack it!

Hear!

I will speak noble things,

From my lips

Will come what is right.

My mouth will utter truth.

Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are righteous.

There is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

They are all straight to one who understands.

They are right to those who find knowledge.

Take my instruction instead of silver.

Take my knowledge rather than choice gold.

Wisdom is better than jewels.

All that you may desire cannot compare with her.’”

Lady wisdom is calling. Unlike the prostitute or adulterous woman, you should listen to her. Lady wisdom is all over the place. She raises her voice at the heights, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, and at the town entrance. There is no reason to miss her.   Her cry is to all who live, not a particular person. The simpletons were to learn prudence and intelligence. She was going to speak noble things that were right and true. There would be no wickedness, but only righteousness. Nothing is crooked, since everything is straight. You should value her instructions and knowledge more than silver, gold, or jewels. Nothing can compare with lady wisdom.