Luke 6:20-31 is one of those Bible passages that we tend to read and pretend that it makes total sense. And maybe it does, in our heads. But the more you read these passages the more questions they raise about how we live, what we do and why we do it. And, I think this is intentional and necessary.
These verses in Luke are known as the Beatitudes as they speak about being blessed, although not in the way that we might use ‘blessed’ in our everyday language – as is clear if you have a look on Twitter or Instagram and look for #blessed. But this isn’t a social media beat up. This is about what we value.
The main way we value things, as a whole world, is through the economy. The market and actions within the market determine how much something is worth, which is usually measured in a currency amount. We do this every day as we head to the supermarket and complain as to why something is so expensive and why they don’t make things to last any more. In our world, value and success are generally measured through this lens. Mind you, social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram have changed some of the measurements and made others clearer than ever before. To have value in these places, requires views, followers, engagements and more.
However, there are some things that are outside this market economy. I have a piece of wood that was scouted out and found by my father and by my brother and me – when we were about 10. We went in search of a piece of wood that had a big knot at one end as we were making an indigenous weapon called a Nulla Nulla. We found it, coated it and painted it. This Nulla Nulla has almost no monetary value but no amount of money you could give me would be enough to buy it. The market economy isn’t able to put a price on this ‘piece of wood’ because of the type of value it has for me.
Similarly, as we look at Luke we start to get an idea about God’s economy and what he values. For example, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man” and “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Then, he ends with the words, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.” What is being set out here is a measurement, a value, and how we trade in God’s economy.
In sharp contrast to this is the current climate created by three economies currently at war. There is the Chinese Government, the major market players and the predominantly western culture. If you have seen the news about the NBA, Blizzard and other multibillion-dollar companies you will know what I’m talking about. Do a quick Google search if you don’t. And what is at stake? Well, it depends on which of those economies prevails. Power, money and human rights – all currently at war, launching their various bombs and armies.
I’m not here to make a political statement about what is going on but to draw a parallel. This parallel was made very clear when someone, online, posted this joke by an African American comedian called Dave Chapelle:
If Martin Luther King had a sneaker deal, we’d still be on the back of the bus. It’s true.
The Nike exec would come up and say, “Hi, Martin. Uh… we need you to tone down the talk of civil rights and blacks being humans. It’s upsetting our Southern distributors.”
Martin, “But I don’t understand. I thought that’s why I had a sneaker deal in the first place.”
Nike exec, “Not quite. Really, it’s a walking shoe. We like the marching, but… Try to understand.” (Disclaimer: this comedian can be very crude so viewer discretion is advised if you watch anything of his)
What we choose to say and do, and how we make our choices, shows what we value. God asks us to flip some of what we think on its head and to choose to step outside of our current notions of value. Until we do that we are probably not operating in God’s economy. And, judging by those verses, we aren’t going to be blessed.