The poor in the gospel of Luke (vii)

After a longish break, back to my series on the poor in Luke’s Gospel. We’ve got up to chapter 18.There are three incidences in Luke 18 that I want to look briefly at. They are not directly about helping the poor, more about attitudes to God.

The first is the parable that Jesus tells at the beginning, the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Although these are not directly concerned with the poor, they do involve those on the edge of the Jewish society. The widow was powerless and wanting justice. The judge had the power but not the inclination to use it for good. Through the widow’s sheer persistence, almost nagging at the judge, she would see justice. Jesus’ point is that even if an unjust judge delivers justice, how much more with God who is just. He cares about the plight of those who do not have a voice and will see to it that their case is heard.

The second passage is the incident with the rich young ruler (18:18-30), obviously a good man. He is wealthy and seemingly has everything he needs, but the one this he doesn’t have is something he cannot control – assurance about eternal life. When he came to Jesus and asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life” I don’t know what answer he was expecting – give away a bit of money, build welfare strictures for the poor, give to the temple Maybe one of these.

But the answer he finally gets is interesting. Jesus says “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (18:22).

The point here isn’t directly about money or the poor, although Jesus sees them as worthy recipients of the money. The sticking point for the rich man was that his possessions were becoming his god. That is why he needed to get rid of them – they were getting in the way, and he couldn’t give them up. For the rich man, only by doing this could he have ‘treasure in heaven’.

This does say something about the attitudes that God wants in following Jesus. In a sense, we must all become poor – not in a material sense but in the way we come towards God. We are poor in that we get all we have and need from Him, material and spiritual. We will always need God first and foremost no matter now much else we may have.

Finally, there is a short incident with a blind beggar at the end of the chapter (18:35-43), when compared to the incident with the rich man, this story is amazing. This was a beggar. He was materially poor. He had nothing and needed to beg for his money for food. Yet when he hears that Jesus is coming he does all he can to be heard. I don’t know how many people must have passed him that day and maybe given him a couple of coins. Many more must have ignored him completely. Yet when he hears Jesus is coming he doesn’t ask for money, or food. He asks to see. He knows that Jesus can do it, and indeed, Jesus does have mercy on him and heals him. I guess he has nothing to lose, but his attitude is one of dependence and humility, relying and trusting in the power of God even though he had no power of his own. He was poor, but he became rich, gaining his sight and praising God.

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