Rev Michael Barnes, 17/2/19
Blessed are the Leaners; Woe to the Lifters
Today’s reading is surprising. Jesus’ blessings do not correlate with a person’s character. Rather, they refer to economic and social circumstances, ‘Blessed are the poor.’
This is odd. We assume that a person’s behaviour and values are an accurate measure of their life and worth; not so in Luke 6. The blessings include poor people who are lazy, self-centred and nasty as much as they do those who have been frugal, thoughtful, and tried hard even without success.
To quote from the somewhat infamous 2014 Federal budget, these blessings embrace ‘leaners’ not ‘lifters.’
The difficulty of comprehending what Jesus meant was evident in the response to Duncan Storrar, who appeared on ABC’s Q & A more than two years ago, at the start of the 2016 Federal election campaign.
Duncan asked why the government planned to give a tax break to people earning more than $80,000 but not to those who earned much less. The response from one of the panellists was inept and avoided the question.
Those on the left of politics hailed him as a hero and started a campaign to raise money for him.
Those on the right dug up dirt about him. They found his son, Aztec, who declared that Duncan caused him to become addicted to drugs and shouldn’t receive any money. His father was, he said ‘undeserving.’
They also revealed that Duncan had a criminal record.
All that he had done was ask an awkward question. Some made him a star, others a villain. No doubt, he was a flawed person and had struggled. (He was a victim of institutional sex abuse when a child.)
What’s challenging about this text from Luke is the implication that whether Duncan was good or bad is irrelevant.
He is poor; he is blessed.
What vision of life enables people to look beyond labels and see such grace in action?