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.

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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 wrath of Yahweh (Isa 57:16-57:18)

“I will not continually accuse.

I will not always be angry.

The spirits would grow faint before me,

Even the souls that I have made.

Because of their wicked covetousness,

I was angry!

I struck them!

I hid!

I was angry!

But they kept turning back

To their own ways.

I have seen their ways.

But I will heal them.

I will lead them.

I will repay them with comfort.

I will create

For their mourners

The fruit of their lips.”

Third Isaiah says that the wrath of Yahweh will not exist forever. He is not going to be angry all the time. He will stop accusing them. Otherwise their spirits would grow faint, even his own beloved ones. Their covetousness had made Yahweh angry. He hid from them. He struck them, but they kept turning back to their evil ways. Yahweh was going to heal them. He was going to be their leader and comfort them. He would help the mourners. The wrath of God would subside.

 

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.