There is a Monty Python sketch about a Robin Hood-type character named Dennis Moore. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor until the rich have become poor and the poor rich. This is the paradox of reversal: when the first become last and the last first, we end up with the same class hierarchy. Nothing has really changed. Dennis Moore tries to solve the problem by engaging in armed redistribution, but finds it ultimately frustrating trying to even out coins and tiaras. Hopefully, God has a better plan.
I’m not sure Luke thinks so. Perhaps we should narrow the field a bit. Certainly, there are threads in Luke that point to a cosmic battle between good and evil. But in the Beatitudes Luke is very concrete (6:20-23). If we compare his telling of Jesus’ teachings to their parallel in Matthew (5:3-12), it is very grounded, very earthly. Matthew speaks of the “poor in spirit” where Luke speaks only of “you who are poor.” Matthew speaks of “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” where Luke speaks only of “you who are hungry now.” It is direct. It is personal. It is real. It is now. The problem, as Luke sees it, is not spiritual or psychological; it is material. Real people are really starving. And, while there is some sense in Luke that there is a great evil that controls the world, woe to the ones through whom it finds its power (cf. 22:22).
Luke adds something that Matthew does not: woes, judgment upon those who cause suffering. They precisely parallel the blessings. It seems clear that those who are rich are the cause of poverty for others. Those whose bellies are full are the cause of those who hunger. Those who laugh do so at the expense of those who weep. Any Christians concerned about class warfare should probably avoid Luke. Maybe the rest of us, if we really look at the world around us, should as well.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about the rich and the poor, the hungry and the satisfied, and grieving and the joyful. Most importantly, we’ll talk about where we find ourselves in this teaching and how we are to live in response.
Grace and Peace,