Luke 6:20, The Beatitudes in Luke

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

//Everyone is familiar with the beatitudes in Matthew, that wonderful collection of “blesseds” from the sermon on the Mount. They provide wonderful encouragement for our spiritual needs.

But did you know that Luke preserves a record of the beatitudes as well? Bible scholars sometimes call Luke 6:17-49 the Sermon on the Plain. It’s basically the same scene and drawn from the same source as Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. But in Luke’s version, the sayings are very down to earth, not meant in a spiritual way at all. In Luke, we’re not dealing with the poor in spirit, we’re dealing with the poor. We’re not dealing with those who hunger after justice, but with those who are truly hungry. It’s not about those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but simply all who are persecuted. Luke is not about spiritual needs, but about real life. In Luke, Jesus is concerned about those with empty stomachs, the real have-nots, the people who are weeping now.

Luke’s Gospel has a different flavor from the beginning. Consider the parable of Lazarus, the poor beggar sitting outside the gates of the rich man. This is not a story about right and wrong, but about haves and have-nots. The have-nots will be rewarded in the age to come, while the haves already have their reward. According to Luke, the only proper use of wealth is to give it to the poor.  Where Matthew says, “do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth,” Luke is very specific in relating the same passage: “Sell your possessions and give alms.”

Is the Lukan version a more original peek into the true humanitarian ministry of Jesus? Here are Luke’s beatitudes:

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

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate and persecute you … for behold, your reward is great in heaven.

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2 Comments

  1. You made a good attempt to show that all of Luke’s blessings are not spiritual in nature, but your ellipsis in the fourth blessings reveals that the analysis is forced. The full blessings is for those who are persecuted on account of the Son of Man (Jesus). This is in fact quite parallel to Matthew’s “persecuted for righteousness.” It’s important not to force the text into agreement with an assumed thesis.

  2. Yes, if you equate “righteousness” with following/reverencing the Son of Man and the prophets (see verse 26) then this blessing begins to parallel Matthew’s. But I do not see how that makes any of the Lukan blessings more “spiritual” in nature. I think I understand your argument to be that because the fourth and final blessing promises a heavenly reward (your definition of spiritual?), that the others are meant to be interpreted in like manner? That’s a reasonable interpretation, though I find it inconsistent with the humanitarian emphasis of Luke.

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