Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
   for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.  (Luke 6:20-21)

These are words of hope.  These words affirm the humanity of the poor and insist that every person be treated with human dignity.  This blessing, spoken two thousand years ago by Jesus of Nazareth, affirms the worth of all people.  Biblical scholar, Obery Hendricks writes, "So deep and so debilitating was the effect of impoverishment on the pyscho-emotional health of his people that Jesus found it necessary to explicitly affirm their worth with the validation "Blessed are you who are poor" (Luke 6:20)."

A Huffington Post article earlier this year summarized the desperate situation that many Americans are facing because of the economy:

After the worst economic downturn since the Depression, formerly middle-class people…have found themselves reduced to poverty. With jobs scarce, and with government safety nets shrinking, one misfortune — a layoff, an injury, a mortgage default — can transform a person's life beyond recognition. No longer a condition reserved for the margins of society, for drug addicts and the mentally ill, homelessness has infiltrated the heart of America.

As foreclosure and unemployment rates have swelled to epidemic proportions in the past two years, the ranks of the American homeless have grown: the number of homeless families rose 4 percent in 2009, and then 9 percent last year, a pair of new reports show. In effect, even more Americans were homeless than those numbers suggest, stranded in the awkward process of staying with friends and relatives, for lack of a home of their own. Instances of families "doubling up" between 2008 and 2010 rose nearly 12 percent.

The words of Jesus–blessed are you who are poor– are counter-cultural.  They offer an alternative way of looking at the world and life. Jesus offered a blessing directly to his hearers.  Notice his blessing in the Gospel of Luke is in the second person, "blessed are you who are poor," rather than the blessing found in the Sermon on the Mount, "blessed are those who are poor in spirit."  Here, he speaks directly to his hearers.  You are blessed!  He looked upon those who were poor, hungry and in despair, and said, you matter.  You are a human being loved by God and some of your best days are ahead of you. 

IMG_0373 In his blessing, "blessed are you who are poor," Jesus was not recommending poverty or hunger.  His listeners were already hungry and in despair.  He was affirming their humanity and offering them hope.  Our attitude about people who are homeless and hungry tells us something about our own relationship to God.

Jesus considered nobody as a pawn.  Rather than blaming the poor for their condition, he offered words of hope.  

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
   for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.

Advertisements