Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | February 11, 2019

Blessed are the… wait, what?

          Luke’s beatitudes (chapter 6) are strikingly different from the ones in Matthew (chapter 5), though Matthew’s are more often quoted. For good reason, because Matthew’s are nicer. Whereas Matthew’s are part of the sermon on the mount, Luke’s come as a sermon on the plain. The elevated Jesus words are distinct from the level-with-humanity Jesus words.

          We like to remember Matthew’s version, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” because that includes every human being. Anyone who is at all self-aware feels that poverty of the soul and longs for more. And we all like being called blessed.

          Then there’s Luke. “Blessed are the poor.” I have heard preachers say that what he means to say here is “poor in spirit.” Because he means to include us all. Of course. That makes sense.

          Um, no.

          It’s hard for people who aren’t poor to see that Jesus has a particular preference for those who are. That just seems backwards. Isn’t it obvious that God rewards hard work, investment, savings, capitalism? Again, no. The gospel is often completely upside-down compared to how we see the world, so it’s tempting to mold its meaning to our already formed opinions.

          And in today’s Western culture, practically no one thinks the poor are, or should be, blessed.

          Isn’t the ultimate blessing by God expressed in wealth and material possessions? Isn’t the release from poverty the result of prayer and hard work? Shouldn’t we look to the smartest capitalists among us to run our country and make our laws? And shouldn’t those who are poor be required to earn any blessings like health care, employment, housing, even food?

In a (gospel) word: no.

          The economic values of our capitalist society are limited and often skewed. Jesus values are often different from those of capitalism, socialism, communism, or any other ism. We’re invited to examine our own social and economic structures with gospel eyes, and to reach new conclusions.

          One other difference between Matthew and Luke: Luke’s blessings are immediately followed by a list of woes. The first one? “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

          In the Jesus economy and social structure, the rich are the ones who should be disparaged and the poor are the ones who should be seen as models.

          That really is the opposite of what we’re doing and seeing, isn’t it?

          The poor aren’t to be pitied, to receive charity, to help us check something off our religious to-do list when we give away clothing or serve a meal in the shelter.

          Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God.

          The poor are our examples of kingdom living. They are honored, celebrated.

          The poor are our teachers.

          The poor are blessed.

© 2019, Melissa Bane Sevier


  1. […] as Melissa Bane Sevier writes: “Isn’t the ultimate blessing by God expressed in wealth and material possessions? Isn’t the […]

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