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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, February 13

Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
—Luke 6:20

This famous saying of Jesus is one of the beatitudes, or blessings. Jesus sits on a grassy plain in Galilee, surrounded by people eagerly listening to him. Matthew’s version of this scene is different: Jesus is on a mountain (thus, the "Sermon on the Mount") and the beatitude is to the poor in "spirit." Luke doesn’t equivocate: the poor are those in poverty, those who are marginalized, left out and overlooked.

Beatitudes are not advice: Jesus does not tell the people to be poor, or even to be kind to the poor (though he wholeheartedly supports that behavior). Beatitudes simply affirm common wisdom. The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor offers two contemporary beatitudes: "Blessed are they who have good 501K plans, for their old age shall be comfortable; blessed are those who floss for they will keep teeth."

The shocking thing about Jesus’ beatitudes is that they reverse common understanding. No one aims for poverty as a blessing, at least not anyone I know. According to Jesus, in God’s kingdom, things as we know them will be reversed. Barbara Taylor has a vivid depiction of this—God’s Ferris wheel:

Jesus makes the same promise to all his listeners: that the way things are is not the way they will always be. The Ferris wheel will go around, so that those who are swaying at the top, with the wind in their hair and all the worlds’ lights at their feet, will have their turn at the bottom, while those who are down there right now, where all they can see are candy wrappers in the sawdust, will have their chance to touch the stars. It is not advice at all. It is not even judgment. It is simply the truth about the way things work, pronounced by someone who loves everyone on that wheel.

Give us courage, gracious God, to accept your blessings—in whatever form they appear. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.