Today’s passage can be read online here.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts, (William Shakespear)
Shakespear the genius, he captured the human condition in a few lines and 400 years later they still resonate. My question, and I am not a genius, is if we are all acting out our parts, to whom are we playing? Or put it another way; who are we trying to please? When we pray in Church, who are we speaking to? I’ve heard prayers, none recent, when I suspect the object of the prayer is to impress the congregation.
Although there is a large crowd present, Jesus is addressing his disciples and he began this message with a series of blessings and woes. They would have sounded very strange. The word ‘blessed’, can also mean ‘happy’ and the word ‘poor’, is the word used to describe desperate poverty. If we put that together he was saying; ‘you are happy if you are desperately poor’. I think Jesus was talking about spiritual things here and Matthew’s account would seem to back that; “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus is teaching that those who are so poor in spirit, they need outside help will receive the kingdom of heaven and those who have a deep spiritual hunger will be satisfied. In contrast, those who are happy with things as they are will weep.
Another key element is how the disciples are viewed by others. Jesus said they should rejoice when they are insulted because of him. Whereas, woe to them when everyone speaks well of them. It comes down to who we are seeking to please. If we are living to please God, are not happy with things as they are, and if we are being persecuted because we follow Jesus, we are blessed now (note the blessings are not set in the future, it says; blessed are you). If on the other hand, we are quite happy as things are now, we don’t really need God, and anyway, it might spoil our reputations, woe to you. God gives human beings what they want, for those who know their need of him, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. For those who want nothing to do with God, he sends them to an eternity of separation from himself and that is a terrifying prospect. If you are not a Christian, call on him now.
We thank you Lord that Jesus was prepared to be hated and insulted so that we can be saved. Help us Lord, to live to please you today.