Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Luke said (in v. 17), “He came down and stopped at a piece of level ground.” From that point to the end of chapter 6 is therefore called ‘The Sermon on the Plain’, in contrast to Matthew’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Mt 5-7). But it is the same sermon, with differences. In Luke’s gospel the mountain is a place of prayer or revelation; it is as if he doesn't want the crowds to go up there, so he brings Jesus down!
Throughout his gospel Luke places an exceptional emphasis on poverty; and to ensure that we don’t avoid the subject by spiritualising it, he says “Blessed are you who are poor,” rather than “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3). And for the hard of hearing, “Woe to you who are rich.”
Why is wealth a problem? No, wealth is not the problem; we are the problem. Or rather, the problem is what we do and fail to do with wealth. We have a tendency to selfishness and greed, which blinds us to the needs of other people, as it blinded the rich man to the needs of Lazarus (Luke 16). It can help us believe that we are independent of other people and of events, and ultimately even of God. Thinking about the rich young man in the gospels (Lk 18, Mt 19, Mk 10), Sahajananda wrote, “He identified himself with his riches – without them he had no existence. With these riches he could not enter into the kingdom because the door to the kingdom is narrow. Not narrow in the sense of space, but in the sense that only the essential aspect of our being goes through it; all acquired things have to be left out…. The kingdom of God is the essential nature of all human beings…. This treasure can neither increase or decrease. No thief can get there and no moth can cause its destruction.”
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