Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. “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 6:23-26)
The sermon on the mount is a fundamental framework of the kingdom of God. Matthew’s account is a longer version of a sermon Jesus preached throughout Israel. Luke has a similar rendering of the sermon in his book with a few additions and lacking material from Matthew’s account on other parts. One notable inclusion of Luke is the four woes pronounced by Jesus to His disciples. The woes are not meant to be matters of judgment but rather lamentations of sorrow over the plight of those whose hearts were not devoted to the Lord.
Covetousness has always been a challenge of faith for God’s people. Many warnings are given throughout scripture showing the danger of greed and the desire to be rich. Jesus laments those trapped in the futile effort to find happiness in the possessions of this world. One of the deceitful temptations of seeking riches is to believe that life will be complete if only one possesses the right amount of money. Riches cannot buy a baby’s smile. Money does not bring happiness. The commerce of money is necessary for life, but at the end of life, money will not change anything. If a man puts all his happiness in the amount of money he has, he will be a sad and miserable person.
In contrast to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the soul full of the worldly pleasures of this life will only find famine. These people do not desire the spiritual manna of God’s word. They live their lives seeking the joys and pleasures of life. There is no regard for eternal consequences. The motto of this type of person is that whoever dies with the most toys wins. Jesus laments the empty lives that fill themselves with the drudgeries of life without purpose. God created man for His glory. Man decides to live for his own glory, which becomes his demise. Woe to those who are full because they will always find themselves hungering.
The frivolity of life is the favorite pastime of most people. Life has little purpose except to eat, drink, and find merriment. This is the opposite of those who mourn and weep for righteousness’ sake. It is sad to Jesus to see so many who waste their lives seeking the pleasures of life and not preparing for the judgment of God. Life is filled with laughter and the superficiality of seeking things carnal. There is no hope found in this life. Jesus mourns the souls who waste a lifetime seeking the enjoyment of life and only find misery and hopelessness.
Courting the favor of men is a temptation of pride. Seeking the accolades and favors of men will only end in an empty vacuum. Jesus uses the example of those who spoke well of the false prophets to gain favor with them and to be known among all men. This was a useless expression of false humility. When the godly refuse to admonish the ungodly and commend them in their spirit, danger awaits. Jesus reminds the disciples how the fathers of old sought to please the false prophets by encouraging them in their wicked ways. If all men (of the world) speak well of the righteous, the righteous have something to fear.
Jesus is not lacking in offering woes upon the miserable condition of the people who have fallen to the wiles of the devil. He provides a perspective on how to live. Most men live for themselves, seeking riches, pleasure, entertainment, and fame. This is sad to the heart of Jesus, who sees the consequences of all things as a wasted life. Through the knowledge of the word of God, life is measured by those things that last and have worth. It is to this measure that Jesus rejoices. If Jesus looked at your life, would He declare four woes or four blessings?