One of the biggest misconceptions about Jesus is that he expected and wanted his disciples to suffer. As the Rev. Naomi Washington-Leaphart said, “Suffering is not redemptive.”
These words fly in the face of what many Christians have been taught; but the statement, I believe, is true. When we read passages like the one we’re meditating on today, it is easy to believe that God is opposed to those who are rich, well-off, and highly regarded. But it is not that simple. Throughout scripture, God uses and delights in people of great wealth and influence as well as those with no wealth or influence.
The “woes” that Jesus warns about in this passage are focused on those who believe that these good things are ends in themselves. Jesus is warning that trusting external blessings to be the foundation for our lives sets us up for great suffering and pain. When the rich store up money in palaces of gold, using all their wealth for their own pleasure, they are cutting themselves off from the only path that can bring lasting satisfaction—that of sacrifice and service. Those who laugh and are joyful when others around them are suffering and facing oppression have joy that is shallow and cruel, disconnected from the heart of God.
Christ calls us to use our gifts to spread love and justice in the world around us. These gifts become gateways to a joy that is much deeper and richer than material wealth.
God, help me to use the blessings you have given us to make the world look a bit more like your kingdom each day. Amen.
God wants us to be rooted firmly in our faith. Jeremiah contrasts those who put their trust in themselves with those who trust in God. The latter are like healthy trees with deep roots and a constant water supply, never in danger of drying up or dying. The psalmist uses the same image to describe those who meditate on God’s teachings. Thus, as you do these daily readings and reflect on them, you are sinking deep roots into fertile soil. Agricultural imagery is continued in Paul’s letter. Paul describes Jesus Christ risen in the flesh as the first fruit, meaning that he is the first of many who will be resurrected. In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, worldly success is not necessarily an indication of God’s blessing.
Read Jeremiah 17:5-10. Examine your heart. Do you place your trust in “mere mortals” or in the Lord?
Read Psalm 1. How do you seek to meditate on God’s Word day and night?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. How has your understanding of the resurrection of the dead changed your living?
Read Luke 6:17-26. How do you understand the paradoxes of Jesus’ blessings and woes?
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