One of Luke’s running themes and agendas is justice for the poor and outcast of society. One of the biggest problems in Israel during the time of Jesus was that the teachers and elders of the people had been using their power and authority to oppress the poor and keep them ostracized from society. The leaders did not believe that the poor and sick were worthy of God’s grace. Jesus spoke quite bluntly to this prevalent attitude. He said, to paraphrase, “if you think that being rich and full makes you worthy of God’s kingdom, then you are dead wrong and you are eternally lost. It is only when you become poor and sick that you can truly see that only God can provide your ultimate needs.”
These are sobering words to comfortable Americans. Even the most hurting of us have access to what many in the world would consider to be luxuries. We can find running water and a clean public bathroom. We can find clothes to put on our backs, and a meal, if we know where to look. So, how can we, the comfortable and well-fed be blessed and not cursed? Should we sell all our possessions and become poor? Perhaps some should.
When we compare and contrast Matthew and Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching, some light may be shed on the subject. While Luke speaks directly to the physical reality of poverty and hunger, Matthew redirects the words to become a matter of the heart. Instead of “blessed are the poor,” Matthew says, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The bottom line is that Jesus is concerned with the true attitude of the heart.
Where do you put your trust? Do you ultimately believe that God can and will take care of you, or do you hold onto the fact that you can put bread on the table through your own strength. For some people, a radical stripping away of everything may be what it takes to become truly poor. For others, poverty of spirit may be acquired through a journey of the heart. Only you and God really know what it will take to bring you to a place of complete and utter reliance upon His grace and provision. Ask Him to show you the way.