Thursday, September 14, 2006

who's he talking about?

A little while back I suggested that the story of the Sheep and the Goats may not mean what we often take it to mean. Some people didn't like that too much.
In a nutshell, I suggested that even though we have always been told it's about how we treat the poor, could it actually instead be about how the world treats Jesus' disciples? There are some hints in the text that it could.

In yesterday's lectionary readings we find a similar idea emerging. Luke 6:20 says,

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

Obviously this is the parallel to Matthew's account of the Beatitudes but I thought it was noteworthy that Jesus is directing his statements, not to the poor in general, but to the disciples.

Admittedly, a few verses later Jesus says "Woe to you who are rich" and it could be said that if he is directing verse 20 towards the disciples why not verse 24 too, but I'm still left with this sense that Jesus isn't saying that to be poor is somehow virtuous in and of itself. There are unfortunately plenty of very poor people on estates all across the country. Some of them have ASBO's. In what sense are they particularly and unusually blessed, or have a special relationship with God, simply because of their social status?

Of course I'm not saying that God doesn't care about them and that we should not care for them or work to eradicate poverty. Of course we should. I'm just asking a hermeneutical question - what was Jesus really getting at with some of these things that he said?

1 comment:

Jacob Paul Breeze said...

Greetings and Warm Wishes from the States, Matt! My name is Jacob Paul Breeze, and am highly intrigued by what your community is being for the world.

I think you're right on track vis-a-vis Sheep & Goats as how the world treats Jesus' followers. The sensus plenior includes us, I'm sure, but you might consider the initial implications Jesus had: not least the Temple Cult and the impending destruction of the Temple within a generation. I think we need to remember the Sheep & Goats is still closely tied to Jesus' apocalyptic talk of the Temple's Destruction. The Goats' destruction would be the Temple's (in Jesus' mind I believe).

Thanks for letting your community have an online presence! You are blessing me and my community.