Luke 6:24-26 (CEV)
24 But you rich people are in for trouble. You have already had an easy life!
25 You well-fed people are in for trouble. You will go hungry!
You people who are laughing now are in for trouble. You are going to cry and weep!
26 You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. That is what your own people said about those prophets who told lies.
There’s lots of effort put into keeping the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ separated. If we’re separate from each other, we don’t have to see the differences between us. We don’t have to address the injustices. We can pretend that my wealth has nothing to do with someone else’s poverty.
But there are parts of the world where this attempt at division gets a little hard to achieve.
Take, for example, the neighbourhoods of Kya Sands (on the left) and Bloubosrand (on the right) in South Africa:
On the one side, a slum of ramshackle dwellings prone to fire, filthy open sewers, overcrowding and a complete lack of services. On the other, homes that are worth close to or exceeding a million dollars Canadian – which buys you among other things, city services, paved roads, underground sewers, electricity, etc.
Because we’re mostly not from South Africa, it’s easy to look at this and decry the state of injustice going on. Because we’re mostly not from this slum, it’s easy, perhaps, to blame the people there for “accepting” such conditions – for not “working harder” to achieve something better with their lives.
But Jesus seems to think that we don’t just get to blame other people for injustice and then walk away. And he definitely seems to think that we don’t just get to blame other people for being victims of injustice and then walk away.
Jesus seems to think injustice is bad for those it is perpetrated upon.
Jesus also seems to think injustice is bad for those who do the perpetrating.
Throughout the pages of the Old and New Testament scripture makes it pretty clear that God can’t stand injustice. Over and over again God speaks out on behalf of the poor, the widow, the marginalized. The blessings that we talked about yesterday? That’s just more of God’s heart that beats for the sake of justice.
But today’s passage goes further. Today, Jesus is letting us in on a surprise: injustice is also bad for the person doing it. What cost has your easy life come at? At what cost has your plate been full, your life easy? What did you sacrifice to end up with everyone fawning around you?
I think Jesus loves the poor and the hurt and the vulnerable and the marginalized. I think he sees the Image of God in each of them, and wants them to be treated the way they deserve to be treated.
I also think Jesus loves the rich and the powerful and greedy and the cheat – even sees the image of God in them – and wants to make sure that they have the opportunity to be part of the incredible privilege of joining in with the Kingdom story he came to make possible.
If we live in Canada – even if we live below the poverty line – it turns out we are among the top 16 – 20% of the world’s richest people. So we don’t get to run away from these verses, whoever we are.
We live in a global society. My riches may come at the expense of another person’s poverty thousands of miles away in a garment factory in Bangladesh; a toy factory in China or a coffee or cocoa farm in Africa or South America. That means I need to be aware of poverty, and of my interaction with poverty in the choices I make.
But the fact that an injustice exists today does not mean that it has to be perpetuated into tomorrow. We can read these verses as a death sentence, or we can read them as an invitation. The problem is, I think for most of us we learn about these injustices and we feel powerless to do anything about them. I think the invitation comes with a requirement that we get creative – approaching our relationships with power structures and systems of injustice in new and different ways.
I think the invitation comes with a necessity that we hold all that we have with open hands back to God, assuming that what we have might not just have been given to us for ourselves, but may well have been entrusted to us for the purpose of using it to care for those who have less resources, less power, less opportunity than we do.
And I think the invitation comes with an opportunity for us to begin to view the world through a different lens – a lens that aspires after the Kingdom’s values, the Kingdom’s longings of justice and peace and Shalom, instead of after the values of more, and better, and faster, and bigger.
- How are you rich?
- In what areas do you feel you need to become more aware of the poverty or injustice that your daily life is connected to?
- How can you get creative about the problems you are becoming aware of?
- How can you hold what you have with open hands back to God?
- What steps can you take to begin to look through a Kingdom lens at the messages about wealth and power surrounding us every day?