God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. . .Luke 6:21
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.Matthew 5:6
I am absolutely convinced Luke knew what Matthew wrote, or if he didn’t know that he knew the oral tradition behind it. I think the reference to hungering and thirsting for righteousness takes Luke to the Old Testament references to it. Luke reminds us that the good news of Christianity is not only for the next world, but for NOW as well. He uses the temporal “now” frequently. Oh yes, there is a future aspect to all this and a consummation at the end of the age. But Luke is the one writer in the New Testament who brings a different Old Testament theme into the New Testament. Intensely practical and compassionate. It’s not that there is an intrinsic benefit to being poor. There is no inherent evil in being rich. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are all who are poor”. But those who are poor will be blessed while in their poverty, hopefully by those who have surplus. But later they will be blessed in the afterlife by God. Their end state will be glorious to balance their poverty now. Luke’s gospel is full of that message. There are passages only found in Luke which advocate a radical redistribution of wealth. Such as the following verses:
- “Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”
- “If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”
- “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”
In their search for pious “righteousness” the Pharisees were more concerned about obeying the outward forms of the law. Even to the point of paying tithe on their herbs and spices! But Jesus said they had neglected more important things – like justice and mercy. That’s the kind of righteousness He is looking for. This is the message of the Old Testament Luke picks up and brings into his gospel. These references in Luke’s Beatitudes are just the beginning of the theme. Amos called for righteousness and justice to flow down like mighty rivers, washing over the people. The prophets of the Old Testament challenged God’s people to practice a different kind of righteousness. Yes it was called righteousness: to pay attention to these issues, especially to caring for the poor and hungry.
“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”Isaiah 58:5-7
Oh it is true God blesses those who are hungry. But He also blesses those who champion the cause of the poor and hungry, who actively work for justice and righteousness by helping to feed the poor. If you hunger for that kind of righteousness – if you long to serve others sacrificially the way Jesus Himself did – then you will be filled. Filled with the Spirit of God, because you will be like Jesus.
Hunger pains permeate every part of your body and your thinking. You can’t be starving and then go off and watch tv and forget about it. Hunger is what defines you when you haven’t got enough to eat. Does your hunger for righteousness match that kind of hunger? The kind that gnaws at your inner being until it satisfied. If all God’s people felt like that and searched for God’s righteousness like a hungry man seeks for hunger there would be no poverty in this world. There is enough food in the world. The wastage of food in the affluent world is enough to feed the poor and stop starvation. It’s just not “economic to do that”. In other words there’s no money in it. If we sought God and His righteousness long and hard enough we would know the righteousness that is talked about in the Old Testament. That too is the righteousness of God.
Our problem, or rather the problem of the world’s poor is that our righteousness is able to be turned off and turned on. An hour a week of meals on wheels or working in the soup kitchen is sufficient to assuage our guilt and make us feel like we are doing something toward world poverty. But it is way more than that. It’s about our priorities, the way we live our lives. The choices we make about our own wealth, our consumption, our use of resources, our waste of resources. We are only realizing now how integrated and symbiotic this planet is. We need to be thinking “we” not “me”. Blessing others ought to be our first priority, rather than buying the latest electronic gadget. Consumerism is based on the notion of planned obsolescence. The companies want you to throw away your old “_____” in preference for the new one with more features. But really the old one was sufficient and it still had a good amount of life left in it. But buy the new one we do. And what happens to the old one? Does it get given to someone who could use it? No of course not. Some poor person in the “third world” works to extract the dangerous chemicals so the company can recycle and make more money so you can be satisfied with the new model. Does Jesus see “three worlds”? Are there in reality three worlds? Of course not, there is just one and we had better look after it. More importantly we had better learn to look after each other; including the poor.
I preached recently about Dependence – Independence – Interdependence but in a different context from this. Most of us think we are growing toward to independence. Wrong! Biblically we ought to be growing toward Interdependence. Think about it. That’s God’s plan and Luke helps us see it more clearly throughout his gospel. This is just the first instalment. Luke’s message is hard hitting when we read between the lines and put the pieces together and then think about it. The step we most often miss out is doing something about it.
There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.Mahatma Gandhi
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.Mother Theresa
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you.Jane Eyre
We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.Immanuel Kant
Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.Muhammad Yunus
There is no “Them”. There are only facets of “Us”.John Green
Become His hands in feeding the hungry and in so doing practice righteousness.Ian Vail