Luke 6:20-26

The Real Meaning of the Blesseds

I’ve been reading Dallas Willard’s, “Divine Conspiracy,” and he proposes (and I now accept) a much different “take” on these verses than what I’ve been taught in the past.  I’ll give a brief outline of his main point here.  If you want a fuller treatment of this passage you’ll have to read his book! (a highly recommended suggestion!)

Most of us have probably been taught that “Blessed are you who are poor,” means that you are blessed if you are poor.  The corresponding woe further on, “Woe to you who are rich,” would mean that if you are rich, you do not have God’s blessing.  The same ideas hold for the remaining verses about being hungry, sad, hated, and rejected.  If we believe this teaching, then we would have to accept that these conditions are what we should strive for, and we are not within God’s will unless these apply to us.

A clearer translation of these verses would give nearly the opposite meaning, the one Jesus intended:  ”Blessed are even you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  Even the poor (or “poor in spirit” as it says in the corresponding passage in Matthew) can receive God’s blessing – the “spiritual zeroes,  the ones who we would look at and say that they have no hope of knowing God or being close to him – even THEY can have the kingdom of God, and so can anyone else.  The kingdom of God is available to everyone!  No one is exempt!

The same interpretation holds for the other conditions.  Even if you are hungry, sad, hated, and rejected, following Christ will lead you to God’s blessing.  Willard says, “They are explanations and illustrations, drawn from the immediate setting, of the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus.” Whew!  What a relief!

In the “woes” verses, the same principle holds – Jesus is not trying to indicate that the rich, well-fed, happy, and respected cannot have God’s blessing.  Rather, he is indicating that if you are not following Christ, are not living in a personal relationship with him, then no other condition will save you.  There is no one good enough on their own to receive God’s blessing.  Thankfully, there is also no one who is too far gone to receive God’s blessing, if only they turn their lives over to God.

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