PassageThis passage continues with Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” In the previous passage—the “Beatitudes”—Jesus told his followers why they are blessed in a way that overcomes this life’s trials; in this passage, he gives the opposite message: why there are “woes” coming for those who are doing well in this life. Once again, rather than summarizing this short passage, I’ll just point the reader to the actual text in Luke 6:24–26 (ESV).
ThoughtsIn this passage Jesus continues the same preaching he’d already started in verses 20–23 (ESV), so therefore he’s still talking to his disciples. However, I don’t think he’s pronouncing these woes on his rich disciples, or his disciples who are full, or his disciples who laugh, or his disciples of whom people speak well; based on the context, I think he’s talking to his disciples about those who are so satisfied with what they have in this life that they don’t feel the need to seek the Lord. So, therefore, they’re not actually believers. (It’s possible he’s addressing those disciples in the crowd who aren’t real disciples, for these reasons.)
I guess it’s possible that there’s also a sense in which he’s talking to believers who temporarily get caught up in these things, pulling them away from the Lord. However, it doesn’t seem to fit with the tone of the passage, in which he’s pronouncing “woes” upon people—these would be temporary woes to believers, which, as I mention, doesn’t really seem to fit with the tone of the passage. That being said, it is perfectly reasonable for us to examine our lives from time to time, to ensure that there aren’t material things getting in the way of our relationship with God.
One of the most interesting woes in this passage is in verse 26 (ESV):
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.This is very counterintuitive to humans: Isn’t it a good thing for people to talk well of us? Well… maybe. If “talking well of me” means that everyone says I’m very nice, or that I’m well dressed (but not too well dressed), or that I’m very smart. But if “talking well of me” means that they like me because I never say anything that causes them to examine themselves critically, and their relationship with God, then it’s not a good thing—the Gospel is offensive, so if nobody is ever offended by me, then I have to think about whether that’s because I never share the Gospel with them. The false prophets told the Israelites they were fine—“don’t worry, God’s on our side, He’d never give us over to our enemies!”—and the people were quite happy for the false prophets to tell them what they wanted to hear. On the other hand, there are numerous instances in which the people disliked real prophets of God, whose message was typically about the things Israelites were doing wrong; they didn’t enjoy hearing that so much.