In the Office: Happy the Have-Nots

The words in today’s gospel lesson from the Daily Office are familiar, although probably not as familiar as their oft-quoted parallel in Matthew Chapter 5. In Luke’s telling, Jesus doesn’t ascend to a mountain top but descends to a plain, where he is promptly surrounded by those who are sick and troubled and in need of healing. And as that healing is provided, Jesus offers a promise that frames the story of His good news in a powerful way:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:20-21)

Who is the good news “for”? Is it for those who think they get along fairly well on their own, but who just need a little “spiritual buffing” to make themselves shine in the presence of a holy God? Or is it for those who recognize their brokenness, and who accept – that without hope from outside themselves – they have no hope at all?

Hopefully, of course, we recognize our need of grace – and we rejoice in the mercy of the God who provides it! But does that not place on us an obligation (albeit one borne of “gratitude from within” rather than “compulsion from without”) to extend that same grace to others? Doesn’t that create a desire within us for the poor to be blessed and the hungry to be satisfied and the sick to be healed – not because they’ve “earned” it or “deserve” it – but because we long for them to receive the same mercy that we ourselves have received?

In a passage that I posted on Facebook last night, pastor Timothy Keller invites us to consider the “meta-narrative” or “overarching story” through which we are making sense of our lives. He writes:

     Most meta-narratives say: “Here’s how to win through. Pull yourself together, master yourself. Master the situation. Be strong. You can do it.” But Jesus says, essentially, “You can’t do it. You must rely on me”…
A salvation earned by good works and moral effort would favor the more able, competent, accomplished, and privileged. But salvation by sheer grace favors the failed, the outsiders, the weak, because it goes only to those who know salvation must be by sheer grace. In token of this, Jesus comes not as a wealthy and powerful person but as a poor man, the child of an unwed mother.

Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God

In a world like ours, we are so easily tempted to believe that the good things we enjoy have come to us because we worked harder and chose more wisely than “those people” (and here we “fill in the blank” with some group who we believe “has not” because they “deserve not”). But in my better moments, at least, I recognize…

  • That I am a “have not”…
  • That anything I have, I have by the grace of the Savior who loved me and gave Himself for me…
  • That if I have been blessed, it is in order for me to be a blessing – so that, through me, others may come to know and celebrate the grace that sustains us all.

May we “have nothing” today, so that we can “find everything” in Christ.

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