I have never liked Luke 6:20, which says “Congratulations, you poor!” in newer translations. I think that’s demeaning. If I were a poor person, I’d be offended, especially once Luke adds, “For yours is the kingdom of God.” Yippee! I get the kingdom of God—except I have no idea what the kingdom of God is. It sounds like pie in the sky in the great by-and-by. I’d rather have money.
Older versions of the Bible use the words “Blessed are the poor,” but that doesn’t help me much. Blessings don’t buy food or pay rent. When the newer versions changed “blessed” to “congratulations,” this verse went from bad to “worsterest.”
The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1–12 say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (emphasis mine). With two to four trillion galaxies in the universe, I have no idea where heaven might be. If I were poor, I would still rather have money.
I think “poor in spirit” means humble. I’m the first to admit that a little more humility wouldn’t hurt me, but the line between humility and weakness can be thin and confusing. Was Jesus humble? I’d say he was when he faced his executioners, but I also see him as a radical revolutionary who stood up to the religious authorities. Read Matthew 23, where Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (23:13). That’s not very humble.
The phrase “Congratulations, you poor” always makes me wonder why poverty still exists in a world that throws away tons of food daily and has so many rich people with billions of dollars to blow.
I believe we can eliminate poverty and homelessness—if we want. Unfortunately, too many interpret Jesus’s statement that we always have the poor with us in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8 to mean we should let the poor stay that way.
In the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson started his War on Poverty, which did well until some rich guys wanted to get richer and make the poor even poorer. Unfortunately, those rich guys are still around.
We need to try again. Research shows that it costs more tax dollars to keep people poor than to give them antipoverty tools. In Orange County, California, it costs nearly $300 million a year to keep people on the streets, but taxpayers would save $42 million if the homeless were given housing and services.
Let’s give poor children an outstanding education instead of the worst our nation has to offer. I have seen programs where the students come to school early and stay late. They are fed three wholesome meals a day and provided with all sorts of services and an outstanding education that moves them out of poverty into a fulfilling life.
We need medical services and medicines that are priced according to a person’s income. I have witnessed middle-class families lose their homes due to the outrageous costs of treating one serious illness.
We need to pay living wages, which amount to about twenty-five dollars an hour and supplemental wages for families who are struggling to just survive.
I don’t want to congratulate the poor anymore. I want to eliminate poverty.
How about you?
Image courtesy of Jukka Kervinen (CC BY 2.0)