“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” -Luke 6:25
Is this hopeful at all ?
Were I to brag about an unpopular opinion, the only one I really have (aside from an undying love for black jellybeans, which are the best, and I will hear no objections) is that Revelation is a fantastic and moving book of the Bible.
It is, may I suggest, the black licorice of the Bible. Strong point of view, in your face, in need of explanation, but then you love it with a deep and abiding love.
Like Revelation, the ‘woes’ of Luke’s beatitudes have a certain licorice quality. They are not, shall we say, comforting upon first read. It is not great to be told that you will one day mourn, or go hungry. This sort of thing does not fill the reader with the inexpressible joy of living.
However, Jesus wasn’t talking to us right here. Jesus was talking (and Luke was writing) to a group of persecuted, starving, hiding-in-caves-so-as-not-to-be-killed group of Christians who were not convinced they would live to see the sunrise. They literally were hungry. They literally were mourning for friends and family that they had lost.
So, for them, the idea that God was profoundly on their side was joyous news. The idea that one day, God would intervene in the injustice oppressing them and turn the tables on the wealthy empire that seemed so invincible was no less than a miracle.
The woes of Luke reinforce the idea that God sides ultimately with the oppressed. And to the extent that there is something broken in need of fixing inside each of us, God sides with us too, those parts of us when we most need it. While this challenges the comfort and material privileges we like to depend on, for the times when we have no where else to turn, Jesus reassures us that God is still on our side.
Megan Castellan is our writer this week. She serves as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area. Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt and on Twitter @revlucymeg. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.