“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you […] for the Son of Man’s sake […] for indeed your reward is great in heaven […] But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6: 20-26.)
The Jewish people were very familiar with blessings. Many would bring their children up to the Rabbi’s to be blessed. A blessing was a prophetic pronouncement of some future good in a person’s life. The opposite of the blessing, was the cursing. A cursing was a prophetic pronouncement of some future calamity in a person’s life. Jesus combined the blessings and cursings. Those who had wealth and material possessions in excess were being called to give them away to gain eternal life. Those who were constantly feeding themselves were being told that in the coming life, they would go hungry. Those who were living lives filled with the pleasures of the world, would enter eternal sorrow. Those who, in this life, were well liked and of good reputation would be rejected by God eternally. Jesus lived a life of self denial; a life in which the needs of others were more important than his own, to the point of death. To follow Christ in to eternal life, self denial and self-sacrifice in the present life are required. The sacrifices are wealth, power, property, selfish fun (often sinful pleasures), and a good reputation (a desire to be well liked by everyone.) People hated this message, and today it is still hated. But people’s hatred for the message will never change the message. Enduring pain, and denying your own wants and desires in this life is a requirement for entrance in to heaven. Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
We need only look at credit cards to understand this scripture. Denying pleasure is pain, and many use credit cards to avoid denying what they want. When someone goes out shopping or out to have fun and they can’t afford it, many will pay with a credit card to avoid denying themselves of some pleasure. Food, possessions, recreation, lust; pleasure can take various forms, but usually costs money. But paying for things with money you don’t have doesn’t make the pain go away, it simply postpones it. Eventually the credit card company is going to want their money, and the pain you avoided will have to be endured.
Many people have spent an entire lifetime avoiding pain and indulging in pleasure; but the pain hasn’t been avoided, only postponed. Eventually they are going to have ‘pay the check.’ Chasing after wealth, material possessions, careers, food, and even a good reputation will lead to an eternity of pain. Saving up money for the future, and making recreation and personal time a focus of your life will only lead to destruction. Vacations in Hawaii, hours of television time, golf, weekend partying, lying, lusting, unholy relationships, and other forms of pleasure will end in a curse. Self-denial is the way to eternal blessings. Volunteer work, giving excess money away to the needy, spending time listening to others, giving up T.V. time to evangelize, visiting widows, orphans, the elderly, working with someone caught in addiction, caring for the sick, loving others, giving people rides, to name a few. Where can you refuse your own desires to better serve others? What do you have in excess? Is it time, money, knowledge; what can you give away? When you deny yourself, and make others more important, you are serving The Living God in this life, and in turn, you will serve him in His eternal Kingdom.
“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You will help us to endure pain and to give away what we have in excess; to deny our own wants and pleasures to fulfill Your purposes in the lives of others. Father, help us to deny ourselves and to take up the cross and to follow You. Reveal to us where we can be more self-less; where we can be more giving; and where we can be more like You. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you.