This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The posts this week have been longer than average. So perhaps is it time for final thought. The following quotes come from Walter Pilgrim (Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts).
The clear social distinctions drawn here are between the haves and the have-nots, the possessors and the impoverished, those favored by society and those despised. The new and surprising element is the way in which the norms and values of society are turned upside down. The promised blessings belong to the suffering poor, while the coming woes are pronounced upon the contented rich. According to one commentator, this marks the first time in Jewish religious literature that the poor are directly called the blessed (Hengel Property). [p. 76]
…we have argued that the Lukan beatitudes are addressed to people who are literally poor and persecuted. Yet their poverty is blessed within the context of their response to the ministry of Jesus and the call to the kingdom of God. Thus it is not just poverty or riches per se that is blessed or condemned, but poverty in the context of trust in God and riches in the context of rejection of God. The two go hand in hand for Luke. [p. 77]
“For Luke, the kingdom belongs to the poor, but the rich share in it by virtue of their treatment of the poor and needy” (Thomas Hoyt, The Poor in Luke-Acts, p. 167) [quoted by Pilgrim on p. 160]
Who are the poor for Luke and what is the good news proclaimed to them? If, as we have shown, the poor includes those who belong to the lowest social and economic level, what is the good news addressed to them? We would suggest three dimensions of this good news in Luke-Acts.
- The assurance that God is for them
- The promise of the future — the promised eschatological reversal
- promise of the present — The hope for the poor in the present for Luke lies in the fellowship of a new community, where justice, equality, and compassion are living realities. [pp. 160-162]
While the basic message of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s gospel centers around the theme of good news to the poor, his extensive discussion of wealth and poverty is addressed primarily to the rich. We have interpreted this to mean that Luke is using this material to speak to well-to-do Christians in his own day. What Luke has in mind is nothing less than an urgent call for a new evaluation of possessions and their place in the Christian life and Christian community.
Luke has two major themes regarding possessions. The first is a warning about their radical danger to Christian discipleship. … the danger of possessions carries with it a summons for rich believers to take heed, to be on guard and to be open for the necessity of an urgent reordering of priorities in their lives
The Lukan response to possessions is not the call to total abandonment, but what we choose to term the discipleship use of one’s wealth. What Luke commends for Christians in his day is a style of life in which possessions are placed radically at the service of those in need. While possessions in themselves are not evil, their true worth is to be measured by their use. [pp. 163-165]
Luke addressed himself to the rich Christians in his day. He does not insist that they give up all their possessions, nor does he require an elimination of all economic differences in the community. But Luke does say this to rich Christians: “Your abundance and the poverty of other Christians are not in accordance with God’s will or with the spirit of Jesus. You must relinquish your abundance for the sake of the poor and work toward greater economic equality in God’s world.” Back to the tough question once again, can one remain wealthy and be a faithful Christian? We interpret the Zacchaeus episode as Luke’s no/yes response. No, in that the rich cannot go on living as before. A new ordering of priorities is necessitated. The rich cannot be saved with their riches intact. They must get free from the burden and seduction of wealth and spend themselves in the service of others. Only costly sharing of wealth will do as a response to the call of Jesus into a life of discipleship. “But yes, the rich can be saved, as they are freed by God’s unconditional grace in Christ to trust the Father for life’s sufficiencies and as they respond in love to make friends with their wealth through wise and sacrificial giving, remembering always the poor and the powerless. [p. 170]