Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
Thesis: The "blessedness" of being a participant in the Kingdom of God is reserved to the "poor".
Introduction: Several years ago Hazel and I were invited to attend the dedication of a new building that a church in our area had built. For that dedication, the church leaders had requested of a certain man that he come to be the key speaker for the occasion. This man had, at that time, the position of head of the Department of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. In that position, this man had had extensive exposure to the inner workings of many churches. Out of that experience he made a comment and asked a question. The comment was: "I have never known of a large church that was also a godly church." What he meant was that the leaders of the large churches within the realm of his exposure had inevitably made certain compromises with the Truth about God so that they could increase the numerical size of their churches. Then he asked this question: "Why do we always want to grow to be a large church?" It would appear that he was saying that there are certain, almost inevitable, results to the ambition to have a large church that would compromise the godliness of the church.
This morning we are going to see Jesus making a very similar statement, but with a different set of issues. Let me see if I can prejudice your thinking a bit. If you had the opportunity today to choose whether you would become significantly wealthy, or significantly poor, which would you choose if the choice itself was relatively amoral? If, at the end of the day, you were going to either have a significant amount of money, or almost none at all, and the choice was not prejudiced by some heavy duty attachment of evil, which would you choose?
Now, having answered my question, let's look at Jesus' opening words to His disciples in Luke 6:20: "Blessed are you who are poor because you get to inherit the Kingdom of God" (personal paraphrase).
Does that alter your choice any at all?
October 7, 2007
- I. Some Necessary "Qualifications".
- A. If there is anything to the statement of "blessedness" at all, there is an "exclusion zone" built into the words.
- 1. If it is true that the "blessedness" of possessing the Kingdom of God is extended to the poor, then it has to be true that the rich do not get to possess the Kingdom.
- 2. There would be no point to the statement of "blessedness" being tied to "poverty" if, in fact, there is no link.
- B. If, however, the "exclusion zone" is actually an economic one, the "Gospel" would be "sell all you have, give it to the people you want to go to Hell, and you will be given a place in the Kingdom of God", which, by the way, seems on the surface of it to actually be what Jesus said to the rich young man of Luke 18 fame.
- 1. If poverty is the actual issue, one should seek to be poor.
- 2. But giving wealth to a poor person would actually condemn that person to exclusion from the Kingdom because he would, by the gift, suddenly cease to qualify.
- C. Though Jesus did say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:25), He also said of Zacchaeus, who was a very wealthy man, that "salvation had come to his house" (Luke 19:8).
- D. Even though there is a very real necessity for us to understand that the actual bottom line is not economic, it is altogether a horrendous self-delusion to simply erase the economic link in the equation.
- 1. There is an actual "bottom line" that is not economic.
- 2. But there is a very real and highly important reason for Jesus to use the terms "poor" and "rich".
- a. There is a very real problem with self-delusion for all of us.
- 1) We lie to ourselves very easily.
- 2) We immediately take great comfort in being shown how there is a different "bottom line" than the one in which we are heavily involved and from which we have no real interest in being delivered.
- 3) We easily dismiss the words of God that apply to us, especially when it has to do with economic realities.
- a) Paul told Timothy that we are to be content if we have food and covering, but because we will not be content with that, we simply walk away from that word.
- b) Paul told Timothy that everyone who wishes to be rich will drown in destruction, but because we wish to be rich, we simply refuse to listen to that word.
- b. There is a very real reason why Jesus deliberately used the terms "poor" and "rich" instead of the words that address the actual "bottom line".
- II. The Issues That Are "At Issue".
- A. The first issue is "blessedness".
- 1. The clear fact of the statements of "blessedness" by Jesus is that none of the "circumstances" of blessedness are emotionally satisfying.
- a. The circumstances that Jesus addressed are poverty, hunger, weeping, being hated, being ostracized, being reproached, and being defamed for no good reason.
- b. None of these circumstances typically fit into our sense of being "blessed".
- c. This means that the definition of "blessedness" is not to be found in the circumstances of the present: thus, "blessedness" is not about now.
- 2. A second clear fact of the statements of "blessedness" by Jesus is that there is a definitive link between present circumstances and future finalities.
- a. This link is, firstly, a cause/effect reality [the present produces the future].
- b. This link is, secondly, a direct contrast [the present will be turned completely around in the future].
- c. This means that the definition of "blessedness" is to be found in the complete reversal of current, circumstantial, experiences in the final state of the future: thus, "blessedness" is about how the present choices produce the future's final state.
- 3. Thus we conclude that the definition of "blessedness" is "being in a present circumstance in such a way that the future's final contrast is guaranteed to you."
- B. The second issue is "the Kingdom of God".
- 1. One part of the issue of the Kingdom of God is the issue of being enabled to participate in His final perfect rule.
- a. No one ever breaks any of the rules.
- b. No one chafes under any of the rules.
- 2. Another part of the issue of the Kingdom of God is the issue of a present, undergirding, expectation that the present is not the definition of the future.
- a. Hopelessness generally settles in when the present is seen as the final condition of the way things will be.
- b. Hopefulness is established when the future is guaranteed to be enormously different from the way things are.
- C. The third issue is the criterion for being permitted into the future Kingdom of God.
- 1. Jesus calls this criterion "poverty".
- 2. But, "poverty" is a present economic term that stands as a crucial metaphor for what it takes to be received by God.
- 3. The particular word for "poor" in this text does not mean "poor" in the typical mindset of the normal American.
- a. The typical attitude of the normal American is that one is "poor" when he has a limited financial basis for acquiring all the perks of "wealth".
- b. The word Jesus chose to use is sometimes translated "beggarly" and the verb is translated "to beg".
- c. The issue of "begging" (when it is legitimate and not simply manipulative) is that, for one reason or another, a person has no resources for food and clothing except for what another might be willing to give.
- d. Because the issue is "no resources for life", it is clear that the metaphorical meaning is that no one comes into the Kingdom of God without first coming to total "qualificational" bankruptcy.
- 4. The problem of understanding the metaphor and seeing that it is "qualificational bankruptcy" is that people often immediately, and with great enthusiasm, dismiss the use of poverty so that they can continue to seek material wealth while claiming that they believe in their bankruptcy.
- a. This is the reason that the "rich" seldom "qualify" for the Kingdom: the self-delusion is very great.
- b. It is one thing to claim no "qualification"; it is altogether another to actually believe that one is absolutely unqualified (it is one thing to say one believes that God will provide food and covering when I already have the money needed to get those things; it is altogether another thing to actually believe it).
- c. Self-delusion begins and ends with the issue of what one thinks himself capable.