In Luke 6:20-26 Jesus starts to preach a sermon to his disciples. Jesus begins the sermon speaking of a group of people who are blessed. This is one of those times where it is hard to translate the original Greek word into English. The English word ‘blessed’ can mean ‘receiving God’s blessing’ or it can mean ‘enjoying the good life in which all is well’. The first is used in the law to describe God’s action toward an obedient person. The second is used in wisdom literature to describe the life experienced by living wisely. In Hebrew and Greek there are different words for these two meanings. In this passage when Jesus says, “blessed are the …” the word used means “happy in life is the person who …”. But its not referring to their emotional state – you use the word when you look at someone and say, ‘they are happy because all is well with them, life is as it should be, and they are enjoying life in all its fullness’. Obviously, such a person is blessed by God – but the word is intended to highlight the state of a person for whom life is being enjoyed in all its fullness rather than the action of God in blessing a person. Although obviously they are related.
What seems so paradoxical is that according to Jesus the people who are described as enjoying the good life are the poor, who being poor are hungry and therefore weep, the result of being hated, excluded, reviled and spurned by the world. The reason that such people are ‘happy in life’, despite the circumstances that meet their eyes, is because they belong to the kingdom of God. By faith, in contrast with what they see, they know that they will be satisfied, laugh and enjoy great reward in heaven.
Jesus then speaks of contrasting woes. Woes are usually used in prophetic literature of people who reject and disobey God’s words. The woes describe the dreadful future judgment of people who do not belong to the kingdom of God.
Hearing and aligning oneself with the kingdom of God is the path by which a person experiences happiness in life by faith in God’s promises rather than view things simply by the sight of one’s circumstances.