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Bible Gem 1086 - Looking back at Luke's Be Attitudes (Luke 6:20-23)

July 3, 2019

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said, "God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. 

God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.

What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.

When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.(Luke 6:20-23) 


Some have responded to yesterday's Gem and said that was too much to do in just one night. Ok, I will delay the process by giving you a summary of Bible Gems 833 – 835 and what I wrote there about Luke's Beatitudes. That will help you match what we did back then, with what we are looking at now in taking in the bigger picture. 


This collection of verses are commonly called the Beatitudes. I have heard it preached on at least two occasions that these are the Be Attitudes. In other words, attitudes of being or attitudes for living. That may be, but it is not the sense of the original. The word Beatitude, comes from the Latin "beatus" which signifies "a state of happiness". The idea comes from the Greek word "makarios" meaning "blessed, fortunate, happy or to be the recipient of Divine favour. These Beatitudes are simple yet incredibly deep. Mahatma Gandhi was profoundly influenced by the depth of these sayings of Jesus. Are you? Jesus words would have shocked his hearers then, much as they do now. There lies a very apparent paradox in each of these sayings. So apparent that it ought to stop us in our tracks, arrest our attention and challenge us! Jesus pronounced blessing and blessedness on those whom we would consider unfortunate, poor and deprived. Philip Yancey came up with "fortunate are the unfortunates" as a way of putting the concept "blessed are . . . " 


Note the differences below. [I have only included the Beatitudes which both Matt and Luke share and which are focused on hunger and thirst and the poor.]



Matt: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. 

Luke: Blessed are you who are poorfor yours is the kingdom of God.


Matt: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessfor they will be filled

Luke: Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.


The first obvious thing to note overall is that Luke has only four Beatitudes while Matthew has eight. Clearly, Luke has chosen which ones to include. It is not like he has taken the first four and left the rest. Rather, he has selected one, two, four and eight. You can bet these Beatitudes were memorized by those who passed on Jesus' sermon. It is the kind of material that lends itself to memorization and repetition. These are very deep and pithy sayings which are worthy of repetition and passing on to others. Therefore, it is clear that for someone as thorough as Luke, he would know the full list of eight Beatitudes but he has carefully selected four out of the eight. Why? 


Note also, how Luke changes the focus of Matthew's "poor in spirit" to be just "poor" and "hunger and thirst for righteousness" becomes just "hunger". There are those who want to see the missing elements added again from Matthew's reading but that would do a disservice to the changes that Luke himself made. 


Note also, the addition of Luke's temporal "now" which I have underlined above. 


Matthew's account starts with,


"Blessed are the . . . "; Luke's however, starts more personally with, "Blessed are you who . . ." Notice Luke started the Beatitudes off with, "then Jesus turned to His disciples and said". Literally - "turned his eyes on his disciples". Remember there was a large group of those who were learners and followers at this point. But He has just specifically selected His inner band to direct these comments to.Luke has left out the spiritual elements of Matthew and has addressed poverty, hunger and persecution and hatred. Why? These comments are very relevant to the disciples, especially the twelve. They have left everything, they could feel poor now and somewhat hungry. Now they are reduced to grabbing handfuls of grain as they pass through the fields of another, as the poor were allowed to do that. They can't sell a catch of fish any more; they left that life behind. You disciples are indeed blessed, even though it may not feel like that. The Kingdom of God is yours. You may feel hungry now but you will be satisfied. Indeed, men may hate you. Remember there has been growing opposition from the Pharisees. At first that opposition was directed at the disciples, but later it became focused on the Master Himself. Oh yes, very real persecution is going to be their's because of the Son of Man, but their reward will be great. 


Did you notice also, that Matthew is looking from an essentially spiritual point of view? All eight Beatitudes of Matthew's are spiritualized. Whereas Luke has taken the spiritual aspect out of his and made them applicable to every day life. This fits one of Luke's themes. Throughout his gospel he has a theme of the poor and the downtrodden. It is like he has taken Matthew's high spiritual thought and brought it down to intensely practical things - poverty, weeping, hunger, persecution and hatred. This thought process has two applications – the disciples and the crowd including the Pharisees. Oh yes, Jesus is initially addressing His comments to the Disciples. The text tells us that Jesus looked specifically at the disciples. In Luke, these words were directed at the disciples. Does that mean that the Sermon on the Plateau was for the disciples and the Sermon on the Mount was for the crowd? No! It is one sermon but has two applications. Jesus may be talking directly to the disciples to begin with, but His focus switches and it soon becomes a sermon for the crowd. There is subtlety in what Jesus is doing here. Jesus has done this before. Have a look at John 3 - those thoughts start out directed at Nicodemus and soon become plural. (I talked about this in Bible Gem 29.) 


Jesus is doing exactly the same thing here in Luke 6. He starts with the Disciples in focus but soon is speaking to the whole crowd. 


Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said, "God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.(Luke 6:20)


You who are poor are the recipient of divine favour, for the kingdom of God is yours. The word for poor is ptochos which means "begging" or to be dependent on others for support. It also means poor, destitute, or to be in need. Notice how perfectly it fits the disciples new situation. They are indeed now ptochos, in need and dependent on others for support. That is exactly the situation they find themselves in now. Indeed, to have given up their means of support, ushers in a doorway to the blessing of God. The words don't mean that poverty is a blessing to everyone because when you think about it, that is just not true. While some are blessed by poverty, it can't be said of everyone. The blessing you may derive from poverty depends on your attitude to it. But to the disciples, it is a blessing because it ensured their on-going dependence on God and that certainly was a blessing. 


The disciples, although not considered rich people, they were not poor either. They were manual workers. Some considered these kinds of people among the poor. Jesus is saying to them that theirs is the treasure of heaven. They may not be rich in this life but if they recognize their true state, spiritually they will become rich in the things of God, the treasures of heaven will be theirs. 


Interesting isn't it, if we recognize our state and confess it, then our need will be met. A certain pride comes to the fore if someone were to describe us as "poor" or "needy". We don't like other people to know that we don't have enough money "to make ends meet". We would do anything to avoid being considered poor. Just as in natural things, so too, in spiritual things. We do anything to avoid confessing the true state of our soul or spirit. These two human situations are alike. We don't like to be considered dependent on other people. In the same way, we will go to any lengths to avoid it in terms of money and material wealth, so too or even more so, we avoid it spiritually. 


The other thing to note about this verse is that the context is present tense. All the other beatitudes are future tense but this one is present. This is not a promise but a statement of fact. The disciples are experiencing this "now". Just days before hearing this sermon, they were on the verge of gleaning in the fields. Gleaning means you could pick up the grain that had fallen to the ground; the so called waste grain on the ground. The poor could gather that and take it home. The hand full of grain "gathered on the run" I talked about a few days ago (Bible Gem 826) was allowable but was not permitted to be gathered while standing still. It was something that was allowed in passing. The disciples were now in this predicament. On the verge of being thought to be poor and destitute, I am sure they resisted it with all their might. There is something that rises up within us to declare "I am not going to be dependent on another". But that is the plight of a true disciple of Jesus. You must recognize your need and cast yourself on God to provide. There is a parallel here between the natural principle of poverty and confessing your need in material things and when it comes to spiritual things. 



Yes, blessed are you who have learned the difference and therefore the secret between worldly wealth and the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven. It teaches one to hold loosely to worldly wealth and to cherish beyond measure the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven. Above all, the lessons we learn about His provision for us and our own human heart. 


Note that Luke has changed the order from what Matthew has. Matthew lists hunger and thirst as the fourth beatitude behind the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who mourn and then blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Luke makes this beatitude his second one and omits the words "and thirst for righteousness". Also it is in the same form as the first one in Luke, in that it is focused on the disciples. But in this one, there is a hunger nowbut a future filling.It seems Luke is saying, "blessed are you NOW in your hunger, but a time is coming with the consummation of the age and the commencement of the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when you will be filled with so much more than just having your physical hunger satisfied". Luke makes his starting point physical, aligning with the feelings of the disciples in their current situation. It is like Jesus is reminding them, focus on your work for the kingdom and all the other aspects will work out. Now where have we heard that before? Note that Matthew, in his fuller version of Jesus sermons picks up this aspect in Chapter Six. 



ATTITUDE is one of the most influential factors for success & promotion. Ribka Yusuf Wijaya



Is your problem really your problem, or is it your attitude towards the problem that's your problem? Joyce Meyer



Never Allow Your Attitude To Be Persuaded By Another Person’s Hard Day. Robb Thompson



A poor man is not that one without a cent but the one without God. Ian


Attitudes don’t just happen; they are the products of our choices. Joyce Meyer



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