'There are two ways to live: by the rule of self-interest or to live by God’s rule; to live in relationship to God and others or to live to use others for the benefit of self. When Jesus speaks of ‘the poor, the hungry, and the weeping' and 'the rich, the full, the laughing’ he is not setting an arbitrary dollar figure by which we can discern rich from poor. Instead, he distinguishes these two ways of living: to use others for money and power or to use money and power for others.'
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 13, 2022
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III
Text: Luke 6:17-26
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
You’ve heard, of course, of the ‘Golden Rule:’ Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.
Of course, that is not the Golden Rule. Jesus articulated the true Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ This has also been cynically reworked as: ‘Do to others before they do to you.’
Is there no end to this cynicism? Yet it seems to be the way of the world. For it’s not hard to see that those with money and power tend to use it for their own self-aggrandizement. They are aggressive and seem to be unworried by who they oppress.
In the light of the way the world seems to work, Jesus’ beatitudes seem to be a little unrealistic, if not willfully ignorant. ‘Blessed are you who are poor; blessed are you who are hungry; blessed are you who weep; blessed are you who are hated for my sake.’
This does not seem like blessing in the ordinary sense. Most of us consider ourselves blessed if we are able to be ‘comfortable,’ whatever that means; if we have enough to eat, and we can laugh. We desire at least a little bit of respect from others, even for our religious lives.
And so it’s not a little jarring to hear Jesus’ words today. But what is the alternative? Whoever has the gold makes the rules? Jesus says, instead, that God rules, whoever has the gold. And that’s a good thing.
The reason Jesus calls the poor, hungry, weeping, and hated blessed is not because it’s good in itself to be these things. It is because it is those who refuse to live by the world’s golden rule and instead live by the rule of God, depending on him for all that’s necessary, often will have less than others. They will weep for the sake of the world and for their own sins, rather than laugh at what they put over other, weaker people. Even though they are hated for the witness they give of another rule of the world, they will carry with them the knowledge that this rule will be revealed in the resurrection, and that because they have lived by God’s rule, they will be ready to receive it in the day when it is fully revealed.
There are two ways to live: by the rule of self-interest or to live by God’s rule; to live in relationship to God and others or to live to use others for the benefit of self. When Jesus speaks of ‘the poor, the hungry, and the weeping' and 'the rich, the full, the laughing’ he is not setting an arbitrary dollar figure by which we can discern rich from poor. Instead, he distinguishes these two ways of living: to use others for money and power or to use money and power for others.
And would that more would listen to him. For it is true that many who think their money and power will protect them, at the end of their lives find that it does not. Think of the Harvey Weinsteins and Jeffrey Epsteins of the world, and perhaps even the Prince Andrews and the Bill Cosbys, preying upon the young and the innocent. Think of the Adolf Hitlers and the Bernie Madoffs, the Osama bin Ladens and the Saddam Husseins. Even people of the church such as the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. They ended their careers of preying on others in disgrace and humiliation.
But there are, of course, some who die without receiving just reward for their misdeeds. What are we to do with these? Should we assume they have gotten away with what they’ve done? No, for there is a resurrection. For those who have striven to live under God’s rule, there is a resurrection to glory; for those who have lived by the law of whoever has the gold makes the rules there is a resurrection to judgment.
Perhaps no one can discern on this side of the resurrection just who will be raised to judgment. But it is perhaps fair to say that those who take God’s word seriously, that those who take the beatitudes and the woes of Jesus seriously, will reject the ways of the predators and embrace the ways of the meek and lowly, those who depend on God for all things.
Look at the Lord’s Prayer, how Jesus teaches us to pray: he teaches us to ask God for everything. That God would hallow his name, bring in his kingdom, and cause his will to be done, that God would give and forgive and lead and deliver. Those who ask and receive rather than those who take live by this rule of prayer.
It is between two ways until the end of time: Whoever has the gold makes the rules or Do to others as you would have them do to you. May we be faithful to the one who lived his life not in using his power to lord it over others, but gave away everything, even his own life, for their sake. Blessed is he, our Lord Jesus, who delighted in the Law of the Father, and gives us his Spirit so that we too may be ones who are blessed.