I don’t know about you, but my first response to this section of Jesus’ sermon is one of considerable uneasiness. These days, I am only occasionally mocked because of my faith (through comments on my Beliefnet blog, mostly.) Moreover, though I’m not as wealthy as Bill Gates, I am certainly rich when compared to most people in the world. Plus, I am prospering in life and need to lose about twenty pounds. And, though I’m not laughing at this very moment, my life is often filled with joy. So how am I supposed to respond to the woes of Jesus? Should I become hated, poor, hungry, and sad?
This response misses the point of Jesus, although it is surely true that I need to revise my lifestyle in light of kingdom values. Through the use of hyperbole, Jesus is challenging us to consider the things that keep us from wholehearted openness to God. Indeed, we can easily value our reputations, our financial well being, and our comfortable lifestyles so much that we close our hearts to the Lord. We allow transient pleasures to squelch our desire for living under the reign of God. Thus, Jesus challenges us to take a good, honest, searching look at our hearts. What do we desire most of all in this life? Are we seeking first the kingdom of God and his justice?
- Mark D. Roberts, in his The High Calling e-newsletter of 2/4/2011