What Keeps Us From Being Open to God?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
“What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.”
In the "Sermon on the Plain" from Luke 6, Jesus brings ironic good news to the poor, the hungry, and the sorrowful. The kingdom of God is theirs! In time, they will be full and laughing.
But for those of us who are not poor, hungry, or sad, the words of Jesus are troubling. In fact, our discomfort only increases as Jesus continues his teaching. We will be blessed when we are hated, mocked, and cursed because we follow Jesus (6:22). Which of us really wants to be blessed in this way?
Then, Jesus adds what are often called the “woes,” as in the King James Version’s “Woe unto you. . .” Those who are rich, fat and prosperous, laughing, and praised by the crowds will find their fortunes reversed in the kingdom of God. The rich have happiness that is only temporary. The fat and prosperous will be hungry. Those who laugh will be sorrowful. And those who are praised will realize the emptiness of their momentary fame.
I don’t know about you, but my first response to this section of Jesus’ sermon is one of considerable uneasiness. These days, I am only occasionally mocked because of my faith, mostly online. Moreover, though I’m not as wealthy as Bill Gates, I am certainly rich when compared to most people in the world. Plus, I am prospering in life and need to lose about twenty pounds. And, though I’m not laughing at this very moment, my life is often filled with joy. So how am I supposed to respond to the woes of Jesus? Should I become hated, poor, hungry, and sad?
This response misses the point of Jesus, although it is surely true that I need to revise my lifestyle in light of kingdom values. Through the use of hyperbole, Jesus is challenging us to consider the things that keep us from wholehearted openness to God. Indeed, we can easily value our reputations, our financial well being, and our comfortable lifestyles so much that we close our hearts to the Lord. We allow transient pleasures to squelch our desire for living under the reign of God. Thus, Jesus challenges us to take a good, honest, searching look at our hearts. What do we desire most of all in this life? Are we seeking first the kingdom of God and his justice?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the “woes” of Jesus? How are they relevant to you? What are the things that keep you from being open to God? What do you desire even more than God’s kingdom?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I must admit that this passage of Scripture is not my favorite. Yet, for this very reason, it is something to which I must attend with particular care. What are you saying to me here, Lord? What do I need to hear that I’m not willing to hear?
Help me to examine my heart with new honesty and clarity. By your Spirit, may I see the things that keep me closed to you, so that I might confess them and turn from them. May I be open to you in a new way, even today.
And may this openness touch, not just my inner being, but my lifestyle. Perhaps I am too fearful of criticism, too greedy, too glutinous, too happy, too eager for human praise. As you change my heart, Lord, I will not live in the same way, but rather in the ways of your kingdom. So may I truly seek first your kingdom and righteousness today . . . and every day.
I pray in your powerful name. Amen.