Does Jesus Favor the Poor? Matthew 5:2 – 15

Monday morning devotional from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Starting in August I’ve been going through these books chronologically and commenting about any verse that involves  money and stewardship. In my personal journey it has been helpful to me to consider the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the third post in the series.

In of Jesus’ first more significant recorded teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, some wonder if Jesus favors the poor: Matthew 5:2 – 15 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth… 14 You are the light of the world…”  

Some interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount only have the word poor and don’t include “in the spirit”; either way, some have concluded from those verses that perhaps Jesus favors the poor over those who have more money. There are other Bible verses that might clarify this…

  • Luke 6:20 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
  • Luke 4:16-19 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  •  Mark 10:23-25 Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”

Doesn’t it seem as if the rich have more blessings in about every category of life: healthcare, vacations, homes, transportation and careers. They can afford better education, insurance, and legal representation.  We teach cause-and-effect personal economics; some quote ‘”you reap what you sow.” So some wonder if the rich are more blessed. Yet according to the Bible the poor may seem to have the opportunity to have more of God in their lives, as represented by the term Kingdom (means both today and his coming Kingdom) because they are more aware of their need for him. Those with fewer things have the opportunity to be more free from the worries and anxieties attached to striving to satisfy themselves.

Jesus doesn’t seem to advocate anywhere either a pursuit of poverty or wealth to bring meaning to life, yet he cautions about the difficulty and challenges of wealth. Again and again Jesus points to the answer to our yearnings, which is much different from the daily barrage of advertisement and thoughts that go through our minds.

Lastly, countless verses seem to indicate that Jesus’ heart is inclined to the poor, alien, downtrodden, prisoner, sick, oppressed, and lonely because he loves his kids and hates it when they suffer. He likes it when we help the poor: Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

I find these verses very challenging and a great reminder of what my goals should be centered on for this new week.

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