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 first beatitude about poverty (Mt 5:3-5:3)

“Blessed are

The poor in spirit!

Theirs is

The kingdom of heaven.”

 

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

Most people speak about the 8 beatitudes of Jesus on the mountain.  They are also found in Luke, chapter 6:20, since they feature the key points of Jesus’ preaching that was founded on the Hebrew Scriptures.  What does “blessed (Μακάριοι)” mean?  This Greek word Μακάριοι appears over 68 times in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, especially in the Psalms.  God will bless these people, so that they will be the fortunate ones, the happy ones, the wise ones.  There are echoes of Psalm 32, where the happy and blessed ones are those who have had their sins forgiven, since they have no deceit in their hearts.  The blessed people are the poor, the hungry, the mourners, and those being persecuted.  Number one is the poor.  However, right off the bat, there is a difference with Luke, chapter 6:20, who simply said blessed are the poor (Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ) without any modification, since he did not mention the “poor in spirit (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι),” as Matthew indicated here.  What does Matthew mean by this “poor in spirit” or spiritual poverty?  There is a whole Judaic tradition about the oppressed poor and the humble of the land, as in prophets Isaiah, chapter 61:1 and 66:2, and Zephaniah, chapter 2:3, but that was not spiritual poverty.  Perhaps, this is more like the lack of concern for material things, whether you are actually poor or not.  For Luke, it was black or white, poor or not.  The 2nd major difference was the reward.  Matthew continued to talk about what they would possess, the kingdom of the heavens (ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), while Luke said it was the kingdom of God, plain and simple.

The good son of the unrighteous man (Ezek 18:14-18:17)

“But if this man

Has a son

Who sees all the sins

That his father

Has done,

Then considers it,

But does not do likewise,

Should he live?

This son does not

Eat upon the mountains

Or lift up his eyes

To the idols

Of the house of Israel.

He does not

Defile his neighbor’s wife

Or wrong any one.

He does not

Exact pledges

Or commit robbery.

But he gives his bread

To the hungry.

He covers the naked

With a garment.

He withholds his hand

From iniquity.

He takes no advance

Or accrues interest.

He observes

My ordinances.

He follows

My statutes.

He shall not die

For his father’s iniquity.

He shall surely live.”

What happens to the son of an unrighteous person? What if the son sees all the sins that his father has done, but decides to not follow in his father’s footsteps? This son does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or wrong any one. He does not exact pledges for loans or commit any robberies. However, he gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment. He stays away from iniquity. He does not take any advances or accrue interest. He observes Yahweh’s ordinances and statutes. He is not going to die because of his father’s iniquity. Rather he will live.

The righteous man (Ezek 18:5-18:9)

“If a man is righteous,

He does what is lawful.

He does what is right.

He does not eat

Upon the mountains,

He does not lift up his eyes

To the idols

Of the house of Israel.

He does not defile

His neighbor’s wife.

He does not approach a woman

During her menstrual cycle.

He does not oppress anyone.

But he restores

To the debtor

His pledge.

He commits no robbery.

He gives his bread

To the hungry.

He covers the naked

With a garment.

He does not take advantage.

He does not accrue interest.

He withholds his hand

From iniquity.

He executes true justice

Between contending parties.

He follows my statutes.

He is careful to observe

My ordinances.

He acts faithfully.

Such a one is righteous.

He will surely live.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Ezekiel outlined how the righteous man acts. First, he does what is lawful and right. He does not eat upon the mountains, the places of idol worship. He does not lift up his eyes to these Israelite idols. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. He also does not approach a woman during her menstrual cycle. He does not oppress anyone. However, he pays off his loans. He does not rob people. He gives his bread to the hungry people. He clothes the naked. He does not take advantage of anyone. He does not accrue interest. He stays away from iniquity. He executes true justice. He judges between contending parties. He follows the statutes and ordinances faithfully. This righteous one will surely live.

Good conduct (Isa 58:9-58:12)

“If you remove the yoke

From among you,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you remove the pointing of the finger,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you stop speaking of evil,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you offer your food to the hungry,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

If you satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

Then your light shall rise in the darkness.

Your gloom will be

Like the noonday.

Yahweh will guide you continually.

He will satisfy your needs in parched places.

He will make your bones strong.

You shall be

Like a watered garden,

Like a spring of water,

Whose waters do not fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt.

You shall raise up

The foundations of many generations.

You shall be called

The repairer of the breach,

The restorer of streets to live in.”

Third Isaiah points out how the Israelites could become the light in the darkness. They had to remove the yoke from those around them. They had to stop pointing their fingers in a derisive contemptuous way. They had to stop speaking evil. Instead they should offer their food to the hungry and help the afflicted. Gloom could be turned to a noonday sun. Yahweh would guide them continually as their needs would be satisfied. Their bones would grow strong. They would become like watered gardens or unfailing spring waters. They were to rebuild the ancient ruins, thus becoming the foundation for many generations to come. They will be known as those who repaired the streets after the Exile in Jerusalem.

The importance of good relationships (Isa 58:6-58:9)

“Is not this the fast that I choose?

You must loose the bonds of injustice!

You must undo the thongs of the yoke!

Let the oppressed go free!

Break every yoke!

Is it not to share your bread

With the hungry?

Is it not to bring the homeless poor

Into your house?

When you see the naked,

Cover them!

Do not hide yourself

From your own relatives!

Then your light shall break forth

Like the dawn.

Your healing shall spring up quickly.

Your vindicator shall go before you.

The glory of Yahweh

Shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call.

Now Yahweh will answer.

You shall cry for help.

He will say.

‘Here I am.’”

Third Isaiah has Yahweh explain what kind of relationships that they should have while fasting. They should try to do away with injustice. They should try to lift the yoke of those who are oppressed. They should share their bread with the hungry. They should provide housing for the homeless. They should clothe the naked. In some sense, this sounds like the later Christian beatitudes in the gospel stories. They should take care of their relatives or next of kin. If they did all these things, then their light would be like the dawning of a new day. They would heal quickly. Their vindicator would lead them, while the glory of God would be behind them. If they called him, obviously the Lord, Yahweh, would answer their cry for help with a simple saying that he was here.  How you treat others has an impact on how you treat God.

Fools and villains (Isa 32:5-32:8)

“A fool will no longer be called noble.

A villain will not be said to be honorable.

Fools speak folly.

Their mind plots iniquity.

They practice ungodliness.

They utter error concerning Yahweh.

They leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied.

They deprive the thirsty of drink.

The villainies of villains are evil.

They devise wicked devices.

They ruin the poor with lying words,

Even when the plea of the needy is right.

But those who are noble

Plan noble things.

They stand by noble things.”

This Isaiah poem about the fools and the villains is like later wisdom literature. A fool should not be called noble. Neither should a villain be called honorable. The fools naturally speak folly, as they plot iniquity and practice ungodliness. They speak erroneously about Yahweh as they leave the hungry unsatisfied and the thirsty without drink. The villains are the same. They are devising wicked things as they ruin the lives of the poor with lying words, even when the poor are right. On the other hand, the real noble people plan noble things and stand by them.