Blessed Are the Poor
In Luke 6:20 Jesus calls the poor, the hungry, and the depressed “blessed.” He adds, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
But how can the poor, hungry, and rejected be blessed? Perhaps in a future life beyond the grave they will be blessed, but a blessed afterlife doesn’t help them right now in their present life. Perhaps Jesus means that there’s hope in every situation; but sometimes things are hopeless as when my friend was stricken with ALS, or my brother-in-law died from alcoholism. Perhaps Jesus is thinking of a Kingdom of God on earth where the poor will be taken care of by a benevolent government, but—as Quakers well know—such a kingdom is always receding, always beyond our grasp. I offer the recent Pandemic and the present war in Ukraine as evidence of history inevitably defeating our best intentions and hopes.
Jesus uses the enigmatic phrase “Son of Man.” Perhaps he is referring to himself, perhaps he is alluding to the Book of Daniel and the apocalyptic figure who comes from the clouds to establish on earth “an everlasting dominion” of justice.
But look closer. What is the common denominator of Jesus and the Son of Man in the clouds? Well, I would say that it’s the power of God made manifest both in Jesus and Daniel’s Son of Man. That power of God is more accurately described as God’s Presence, which Friends have traditionally described as “that of God” in every human being.
And that is why the poor are blessed. They and we—no matter what our circumstances—can never be separated from the Love of God which dwells within us. As Paul says in Romans 8:38:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor
demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Of course, many Friends reject the idea of Jesus as the Son in the Divine Trinity of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” but Paul is not thinking of Jesus in those terms. He is thinking of Jesus as the “Christ,” which is the Greek for “anointed one.” Jesus has been anointed by God, sent as God’s messenger to proclaim the Kingdom of God already in our midst. And when we feel God’s presence, when we are aware of the Inner Light, we are already in that kingdom.
Even those of us who live in middle-class comfort and enjoy the conveniences of modern-day life are ultimately poor in that we sicken and die; but all of us, whether we are visibly poor or superficially rich, have within us the Divine Love that makes us sons and daughters of God. And God’s children are of infinite worth to the Divine Father/Mother. That worth, that dignity, that blessedness can never be taken away.
~ Richard Russell
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