Tonight we’re starting at 4 week series entitles God & Money
I would say that politics, religion, and money are probably the 3 most divisive things people tend to talk about.
And I want you to know that I plan on dealing with the subject carefully, compassionately, but also truthfully.
16 of the 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions.
In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money.
The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
And we’re going to be in the gospel of Luke mostly, one will be from acts, but of course Luke wrote acts. Luke probably talks more about money than any other biblical author. When Luke talks about money, he usually talks about it in relationship to what he would call ‘The Kingdom of God’
and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
So here in Luke, Jesus is saying ‘These are the people who inherit the kingdom of God”
When the Bible talks about the kingdom of God, you need to understand what that’s talking about. That’s not talking primarily about heaven.
You could say it like this: The Kingdom of God is ‘The Government of God’ or ‘The Politics of God' or ‘The Society of God’.
So when the Bible says ‘The Kingdom of God is coming’ essentially what it means in ‘The King is coming.' - Jesus is coming.
But when the king comes, he always brings with him a kingdom.
Ex: If a team gets a new coach, or a corporation gets a new CEO, or a department gets a new manager… When you get a new leader, you also get a new way of doing things.
And each kingdom produces a certain kind of person.
And so in this passage, we have a contrast between Jesus’s kingdom and the way the world operates.
In the first half - he says ‘Blessed are you…’ and then lists characteristics of people who receive the kingdom of God. And then the 2nd half (called the woes) is contrasting - referring to the kingdom of the world.
Michael Wilcock in his commentary on the gospel of Luke says this about this passage: “In the life of God’s people will be seen first of all a remarkable reversal of values. They will prize what the world calls pitiable, and suspect what the world thinks desirable.”
And he’s exactly right.
And so that’s what we’re going to do tonight. We’re going to look at this thing called ‘The Kingdom of the World’ AKA regular human life. And then this ‘upside-down Kingdom’ which is called the kingdom of God. People call it an upside-down kingdom because in so many ways, it’s the polar opposite of the regular human life.
And then I’ll close with an encouragement and a warning.
Verses 24-26 pronounces ‘Woes’ on a certain way of life.
And when you hear the word ‘woe’ you might instantly think of judgement. Or like ‘condemned’. You’re condemned. Not true.
In the old days, when someone would say ‘Whoa is me’ they’re not condemning themself, they’re pitying themself. And that’s what the word ‘woe’ means here. Pity.
And so Jesus is here talking about a certain type of person, and he says ‘I pity you’. “I pity the fool” - You thought that was Mr. T. No, that was Jesus.
Jesus is saying ‘If this is how you live your life, I pity you.’ And maybe more specifically ‘I pity what’s to come for you.'
Power / Comfort / Success / Recognition
“Woe to you who are rich.”
Being rich isn’t the only form of power, but it’s certainly the most common.
When you’re rich, you feel like you have power over people, people over your life, power over the world.
“Woe to you who are well fed."
That’s a phrase that literally means to have your physical desires satisfied.
“Woe to you who laugh."
At first this looks like ‘woe to you who are happy’ but that’s not what this means. The word ‘laugh’ here in the greek means ‘to gloat’. Basically to gloat b/c you’ve won.
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you.
Recognition / fame / celebrity.
So you might be asking “Is he saying ‘woe’ to anyone who has those things? No. Jesus here is talking about bottom line identities. It’s talking about where you get your significance.
V24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”
That’s the word paraklesis. It’s found all through the New Testament. It’s a word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit.
“Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your holy spirit.” Which is of course your money.
So he’s not saying that you’re a member of the kingdom of the world if you’re successful, he’s saying you’re a member of the kingdom of the world if you find your identity in being successful.
You may believe in God, in Christianity, you come to church, and you even give your money. But if at the end of the day you find your significance in your money, Jesus says ‘I pity you'.
He’s saying all these things - power, comfort, success, recognition, you’re going to be dissapointed.
He doesn’t explain that, he doesn’t say if that’s in this life or the life to come or whatever. He simply says this: “I pity you."
So that’s the kingdom of the world - power, comfort, success, recognition.
And that really shouldn’t be news to anyone. If you live in Albuquerque, you know that’s true. You know that’s what ultimately motivates most people.
So it’s not surprising. But when Jesus comes and explains HIS kingdom, it’s VERY surprising. It’s counterintuitive. It’s unspide-down. It’s not something you’d say ‘Yeah I saw that coming.’
“Blessed are : poor / hungry / grieving / excluded."
Now what the heck does that mean?
Some people would say “It’s simple! Christians are people who SEEK those things. Christians SEEK to be poor, SEEK to be hungry, SEEK to grieve, SEEK to be excluded."
That’s a little too simple.
When Jesus talked to the rich young ruler, he told him to give away ALL his possessions. But when he talked to Zacchaeus, he was happy with 50%, with other people, he never even mentioned it. Even some rich people, like Nicodemus, for example.
Also, if that’s what you think, Christians are to deliberately be poor, to seek out persecution. Well what would motivate you?
So you feel noble. You’re so much better than all those half-hearted Christians.
I’m afraid of success. I’m afraid of money. - So there’s still a sense that that stuff has control over you.
No Jesus doesn’t say to ‘seek’ poverty and ‘seek’ persecution. So what’s he saying?
Well I think the answer comes when you compare the woes with the blessings.
Ex: "Blessed - poor." // "Woe - rich."
What’s he saying? I think those two statements are kinda saying the same thing. Sometimes things look like a good thing, being rich for example, can really turn out being a great curse. And then things that look bad, like being poor for a season, can actually be a place where God comes and does something really beautiful.
Here’s really what I think Jesus is saying here:
They’re not so tied to power and comfort and success that if they lose them, their life is over.
One of the ways you can tell what kingdom you’re in is: How do you deal with grief? How do you deal with financial issues? How do you handle it when your reputation gets messed up?
If you’re in the worlds kingdom, well that’s everything. B/C that’s your comfort, that’s identity. That’s your holy spirit.
And so if you lose those things you’ve got NOTHING.
Verses if you’re in the kingdom of God, you can keep moving. And you can even find beauty and redemption where you’re at, as imperfect as it is.
Do you remember that?
Luke 16 - Lazarus and a rich man both die. And Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man goes to hell. Remember at one point the rich man says something to father Abraham and remember what Abraham says to him: “My son, you’ve had your comfort.”
What Abraham is saying to the rich man: Your riches were more than just riches, it was your comfort. It was your identity.“
And that’s probably why we have this strange phenomenon is the parable where Lazarus is called by his name but the rich man is just called ‘The Rich Man'.
In fact it’s the only parable that has 2 main characters and one is given a proper name and the other isn’t. That’s not an accident.
Basically: It’s one thing for you to be a father, or a mother, or a doctor, or a business man. That’s fine. But when that’s the main thing you are, when that’s your identity, when that’s your meaning in life, when if you were to lose that, you wouldn’t know who you are.
Like you wouldn’t even have a name. You’re just the rich man. That’s who you are.
If you build your life around your children - and something goes wrong with them. There’s no YOU left. How horrible.
Christians : “I’m not JUST : money / children / art.“
I’m not just these things, I’ve got a name.
But the rich man in hell, well all he is is a rich man. That’s it. He doesn’t need a name. And see how far his riches got him.
Do you have a name? Or are you just artists and business men and singers, and computer techies, and mothers and fathers, or do you have a name?
So for the Christian, when the grief hits, when you get fired, when your kids are acting insane, when people think your preaching is stupid. It’s not the end of the world, that doesn’t define you. You have a name.
It’s interesting that in Matthew - the sermon on the mount, Jesus says ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’. We like that one. B/C it spiritualizes it.
But then when you get to Luke 6, it doesn’t say that. It just says ‘blessed are the poor.'
See, being poor in spirit - that’s basically in internal thing. It’s saying ‘I’m not good at being spiritual. I have nothing to brag about, I need a savior.’ - And so without that, someone isn’t a Christian.
But ‘blessed are the poor’, wow, that’s a little bit tougher.
So the kingdom of God is not a place where people SEEK to become physically poor, but rather that we find solidarity with the poor, b/c we recognize our own spiritual poverty. That everything we have ultimately, is a gift from God.
So when you see the hurting, and the displaced, and the abandoned, your heart goes out to them.
God takes away - heart-stone -- flesh. There’s a bunch of places in the Bible where becoming a follower of Jesus is the process where God takes away your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh.
v23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.'
Carl Marx. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Carl Marx, it’s where we get the political philosophy of ‘marxism’. Well verse 23 goes in direct opposition of Karl Marx. Karl Marx said ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’.
Basically: “Don’t tell people about some ‘heaven’. If they believe that, they’re not going to work for justice in the world. They’re not gonna make the world a better place. If you just tell them about some ‘pie in the sky’ afterlife'.
But that’s just not true.
Tim Keller : “Luke 6 shows Karl Marx is wrong. If this world is all there is, and all my comfort must be found in this life, then if fighting injustice means I lose my job, or reputation, or life, I’m not going to do it. I can’t do it, because this life and its wealth are the only life and wealth I have!
I’m not going to fiercely fight injustice if it means I’m going to get killed, because this is it! This is all I have. But if this life, this wealth, and this material comfort I have is not all there is, and I have something waiting for me guaranteed at the end of time, then I’m free to blow the whistle. I’m free to make waves. // I’m free to stand up for injustice even though it costs me. So the gospel is not the opiate of the masses. It’s more like the smelling salts.”
V30 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”
When you first read this, I know what your thinking, you’re thinking “When I leave here if someone asks me for money on the streets of Albuquerque, I have to give it to them.”
Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe sometimes you should and sometimes you shouldn’t but that’s not what this is talking about.
The word here for ‘give’ his to do with loaning. Even just reading the whole chapter will show you that.
So in those days, loans weren’t usually ‘business loans’ where you’re in it to make a profit, you know by making interest. When someone would come to you in those days for a loan, it meant they were in real trouble.
And see in this culture, a huge part of their culture was what was known as a ‘patronage system’ which basically means that people would give out loans and help people when it was strategic for them. “This is a person with a particular skill.” Or “This person knows this person, and that could really come in handy."
You can kinda see this happen in mafia movies. They’ll help you out now, but there’s gonna come a time when you’re gonna help them out. And you’re probably not gonna like it.”
Jesus comes and blows that whole system up. He says ‘How dare you just loan money to people when it profits you! That’s not what God did. God didn’t give to you b/c there’s some favor that he’s going to need to you in the future. No God gave to you b/c he was loving and he was generous.’
So Jesus is saying that people in his kingdom are going to be generous in a way that even goes against their culture. They’re going to be so generous, they’re going to SHOCK the people of their day.
One of the ways you know you’re a member of the Kingdom of God, your generosity will seem completely ridiculous to the people of the kingdom of the world.
Christians will always seem outrageously generous. Insanely generous.
Is that our reputation? Uhhh… No.
Going to end with an encouragement and a warning.
The whole reason that you can handle persecution better than anyone else, the whole reason you can handle perverty better than anyone else, the whole reason you can stand up for the hurt and the marginalized even if it costs you, is all b/c you know: The riches of this world are not the truest form of riches.
v19 “and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”
I love the places in the Bible where Jesus heals people and makes them whole losing strength, by losing power.
Remember Mark 5 where the woman with the issue of blood come and touches Jesus and she healed. And Jesus says ‘Power has come out from me.’ - This is pointing to the cross.
Ok, that’s your encouragement.
I usually try to end with an encouragement, so I’m switching it up here.
Daniel 5 tells us about a dying kingdom. Belshazzar was the leader of the city of babylon.
And he knew they were in trouble and were about to be invaded, so what did he do? He threw a party. Which seems odd.
So they’re all partying and getting drunk and having sex. And in the midst of all this an invisible hand starts to write on the wall, and basically the handwriting says ‘Your days are numbered.'
And that very night they’re invaded and were all destroyed.
Well bible scholars will tell you that there’s an interesting connection between Daniel 5 (The writing on the wall) and Luke 6 that we’ve been reading. And Jesus does this on purpose.
Basically what he’s saying is this: “Are you someone who lives for power, recognition, comfort, success? (Are you a typical Albuquerque-ian?) Is that what you’re living for? Your days are numbered. Your kingdoms days are numbered.“
But Jesus shows us another way. That we would live in His upside-down kingdom. And everything that we are, everything that we have is his.
As pass, I want you to ask yourself this question: What areas in my life are still a part of the kingdom of the world? What ways has I not made Christ the King?
Read a quote by mother teresa. One day, Mother Teresa was asked this question: “Who is Jesus to you?"
Who is Jesus to me?
Jesus is the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross. Jesus is the Sacrifice at Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word - to be spoken. Jesus is the Truth - to be told.
Jesus is the Way - to be walked. Jesus is the Light - to be lit.
Jesus is the Life - to be loved. Jesus is the Joy - to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice - to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life - to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry - to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty - to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked - to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless - to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick - to be healed. Jesus is the Lonely - to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted - to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper - to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar - to give him a smile. Jesus is the Drunkard - to listen to him. Jesus is the Little One - to embrace him.
Jesus is the Dumb - to speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippled - to walk with him. Jesus is the Drug Addict - to befriend him. Jesus is the Prostitute - to remove from danger and befriend her. Jesus is the Prisoner - to be visited.
Jesus is the Old - to be served.
To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.