A Weird Path to Satisfaction
Do you consider yourself to be a poor person? According to the US Census Bureau, 37.2 million people live in their definition of poverty. That’s a little more than 10% of our 2020 population of 329.5 million people. However, elsewhere in the world, half the population lives on less than $2.00 a day. The poorest person here is wealthy by that standard. No wonder they’re pouring across the border.
Are you hungry right now? The average American takes in 3,868 calories each day. It’s calculated that the worldwide average is 2,960 calories a day. A caloric intake of less than 600 calories is considered a definition of malnutrition, with about 10% of the world falling into that category.
Do you feel like crying? The depression rate in the US has dropped seven percentage points in the last two years but is still around 33%. Worldwide, the depression rate is around 5%. I found these numbers startling. Here we are, blessed to live in the finest, most prosperous nation on Earth, and yet we are almost seven times more likely to be depressed than the average human being. These numbers speak directly to Jesus’ teaching in our passage this morning.
But before we get to that, let me ask you one more question: Have you ever experienced rejection because you are a Christian? In a poll taken last year, 59% of respondents said they felt they had experienced persecution for their faith. This number lead commentators to speculate whether those responding understood what persecution really involves. An unlikely source, Forbes magazine, gave definition and numbers to the persecution of Christians worldwide: “On average, every day, 13 Christians are killed for their faith, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested, detained, or imprisoned, and 5 Christians are abducted for faith-related reasons. In the 21st century, it is still not possible to practice religion or belief safely.” Do you still feel persecuted? On the other hand, do you mistakenly believe it will never happen here in the USA?
If you are poor, hungry, depressed, or persecuted, Jesus has good news for you: satisfaction is on its way! If not, know this: the only way to be satisfied with your life is to give it to God, be faithful, and do good. Then He will satisfy all your needs.
Jesus saw a unusual way to experience satisfaction and blessings.
CONTEXT = This is a time of teaching that follows a time of intense healing of a large crowd. 7:1 clarifies DISCIPLES in 6:20; the teaching in 6:20-49 was delivered to the crowd of people who’d gathered to be healed or to see others healed. Both the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-8 and Luke 6 have beatitudes, but Luke’s version is called the “Sermon on the Plain” according to the information given in v. 17.
1. The good news: It is God who satisfies. (20-23)
God satisfies those whom the world has broken. (20-21) For example, GOD BLESSES THE POOR by granting them a place in the KINGDOM OF GOD. The blessing of the POOR (20) is contrasted with the cursing of the RICH (24). (These contrasts do not occur in Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes.) The POOR are frequently seen as being favored recipients of divine attention.
GOD BLESSES THE HUNGRY by satisfying their needs. The blessing of the HUNGRY (21) is contrasted with the cursing of the FAT and PROSPEROUS (25). Earthly things can offer us temporary satisfaction, but heavenly things satisfy us in all circumstances and in Heaven, we will be satisfied for all eternity.
GOD BLESSES THOSE WHO WEEP with something to LAUGH about in DUE TIME. The blessing of those who WEEP (21) is contrasted with the cursing of those who LAUGH (25). I’m encouraged to know that Heaven will be a place of laughter and joy. Folks who worry about Heaven being boring have utterly failed to hear and understand God’s promises of eternal life with Him.
God blesses those whom the world has despised. (22-23) The blessing of those rejected by this world (22-23) is contrasted with the cursing of those who are PRAISED BY THE CROWDS (26). Being persecuted is supposed to be part of a Christian’s experience, but we can tolerate and endure it because we know God will faithfully reward our integrity and obedience. God blesses those who are hated, excluded, mocked, and cursed because they follow the SON OF MAN.
The world’s rejection results in happiness and joy, for two reasons. You can anticipate a great heavenly reward. This puts you in kinship with the ANCIENT PROPHETS who received the same treatment.
2. The bad news: the world never satisfies. (24-26)
The RICH will sorrow because their HAPPINESS is only temporary, bound to end at death. (24) Luke’s gospel is frequently concerned with Jesus’ status as a poor person, His protection of poor people, and His condemnation of the rich. (For example, see Luke 18:24-25.) A key problem with the RICH is that they are satisfied by the things of this world and those are all temporary = YOUR ONLY HAPPINESS IS NOW.
Those pleased with themselves will sorrow because their eternal life will be marked by AWFUL HUNGER. (25) Being FAT in this culture was a desirable thing as it instantly communicated wealth; you could afford to eat enough to become FAT. Superstitious people believed that material prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus rejected these as suitable priorities in life by predicting that A future TIME OF AWFUL HUNGER AWAITS those who are satisfied with this world.
Those who LAUGH now will sorrow because grave loss awaits them. (25) Jesus did not condemn laughter, but the carelessness about spiritual things that marks someone as an unbeliever. If it is only the things of this world that give you delight, then Judgment Day will turn your laughter into MOURNING AND SORROW as you realize, too late, that you are excluded from Heaven, the place of eternal joy and righteous laughter.
Those praised by the crowds will sorrow because that’s how the FALSE PROPHETS were treated back in the day, and they have come under God’s condemnation. (26) James said to be friends with this world is to make yourself an enemy of God (James 4:4). To be famous and adored by worldly people for worldly reasons (especially delivering false messages from God designed to appeal to hypocrites) is to earn the same condemnation God levelled at false prophets. The Law, for example, demanded the execution of false prophets by stoning.
Jesus saw a unusual way to experience satisfaction and blessings.
In every one of the examples of blessing and woe, the emphasis is on the justice of God being satisfied on Judgment Day. We often prefer our justice to come sooner than that. Part of the point here is that God’s blessings and His curses are more powerful than anything in this world. We receive a much better blessing and the wicked receive a much stronger curse from God than anything we could accomplish. God’s justice is perfect; better we leave that task to Him.
Life is made up of choices and choices have consequences. In these verses, Jesus set forth in the plainest language that some of the consequences of our choices will last into eternity. The consequences of godly choices will be blessings, especially in heaven. The consequences of evil choices will be curses, especially in hell. We make a big mistake if we think that things are trivial or that God’s too busy to notice, or that it’s not a kind of sin that merits a response. All of it matters and if it weren’t for the grace of God and the complete forgiveness He offers in Jesus Christ, we would have no hope. As it is, we have all hope. God has given us hope.
It seems strange, even unnatural for Jesus to say that the path to satisfaction winds its way through poverty, hunger, tears, and rejection. Those are things we naturally try to avoid. When we see no further than self and the present moment, Jesus warned us that satisfaction will always elude us. True satisfaction lies in Christ and His promise of eternal life.
Let’s think about human nature for a moment as an aid to applying this teaching. The most immediate need we have is SUSTENANCE. We need food, clothing, water, and shelter to survive. We can’t really think about much beyond these things until the sustenance needs are met. The least mature person doesn’t think of much beyond sustenance needs.
For some, when sustenance needs are met, we start thinking about SECURITY needs. When we get what we need to survive, we think about ways we can keep these things, how we can secure them against theft or other kinds of loss. In our time, insurance, home defense, and security devices are ways we try to meet this need. Folks who obsess over security needs may see their relationship with Christ as a kind of “fire insurance;” all they want of Him is to avoid the flames of Hell.
When security needs are met, some of us start thinking about SIGNIFICANCE needs. You may have noticed when professional athletes have been successful and pull down immense salaries that more than provide for their sustenance and security needs, they talk about their “legacy.” Significance needs are met with preparations of wills, erection of memorials, and immense donations of cash that get buildings named after you. People who want to “accomplish something” or “leave their mark on the world” are trying to satisfy significance needs.
People can do a lot of good by meeting sustenance, security, and significance needs. However, they are all worldly needs. Th most important need is SPIRITUAL. In this passage, Jesus blessed people who endured their worldly needs going unmet but who worked to meet their spiritual needs in relationship with Jesus.
It is in meeting our spiritual needs first, giving God the first and best parts of everything, that we find our way through the maze to the greatest kind of satisfaction, spiritual satisfaction. Then we can say, with the Apostle Paul, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Ironically, it is by giving up all claims to earthly satisfaction that we are truly satisfied in heaven and on earth.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2021/01/13/one-in-eight-christians-worldwide-live-in-countries-where-they-would-be-persecuted/?sh=3a1f530b5016, retrieved on 10 November 2023.
Allison A. Trites, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, The Gospel of Luke, 2006, pp. 106-110.