24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Matthew had included Jesus’ blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), worded slightly differently, but we can understand that Matthew and Luke are using the same source in this instance, but are not here following Mark. Only Luke, however, includes the “woes”, balancing out the blessings – Jesus says that those whom we usually think of as blessed are really cursed, “But woe to you who are rich”; why? Because the rich have already received their consolation – the poor will see a better life, in God’s kingdom, but the rich have a better life already, and are not sharing it. Jesus goes on, “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” When we feast, and allow many others to go away hungry, we condemn ourselves. And “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” Ignoring life around us, laughing and partying while injustice reigns, will bring us eventual grief. And finally, woe to those of whom people speak well, for they spoke well of the false prophets.
Instead, Jesus speaks to those who will listen, calls them and us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate them and us. First of all, are we among those who will listen? Secondly, do we hear the call to love? to do good – even to those who hate us? That is hard – think about it. And speaking of enemies, Jesus goes on, If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other also. And if someone takes your coat, give him your shirt. We so often ignore this instruction, even while claiming that Christ rules our lives! Because it is hard – it is hard to love our enemies; it is hard to turn the other cheek! Jesus knew that would be hard, but he showed us how it is done; he went to the cross.
But Jesus still goes on, if you meet a beggar, give to him; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them back. Rather, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We call this the golden rule – it is a way to order our lives after Jesus’ teaching. It is loving rather than hating, we would hardly want others to hate us! It is giving rather than taking; it is being kind rather than persecuting; it is doing good rather than harm. It is thinking before we act!
After all, everyone, even pagans love those who love them. Everyone does good to those who do good to them. And if we loan to those we know can pay us back, don’t even the money-lenders do that? But – Jesus says, love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. For God himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. We are to be merciful, even as our Father in Heaven is merciful.