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Woe to the rich and full!

Jesus says, "Woe to the rich and full!"
Jesus says, “Woe to the rich and full!”

A “woe” is a cry of pain that results from suffering. With each woe Jesus pronounces a judgment: “Woe to you who think you’re spiritually rich, who don’t hunger spiritually, and who laugh at your sin. This is what awaits you!”

While the four Beatitudes discuss blessings for believers, the four woes discuss curses for unbelievers. Believers can be encouraged by the blessings, that while they’re suffering now, they’ll be rewarded later. Just as much, unbelievers are warned that while they’re enjoying life now, they’re going to suffer later.

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24a).

The four blessings form pairs with the four woes. They complement each other. Whatever is true regarding the blessing, the opposite is also true regarding the woe. The first woe corresponds with the first blessing:

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20b).

Jesus isn’t speaking of being physically or financially rich. He’s speaking of being spiritually rich, but to be clear, nobody falls into this category. We’re all spiritually poor, but after that we all fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who recognize their spiritual poverty. They know they’re sinners, and they turn to Christ for forgiveness.
  • Those who see themselves as spiritually rich. These people think they’re not sinners. They think they’re good enough to get to heaven on their own. As a result, they see no need for Christ, and Jesus says these people are cursed.

On the cross, Jesus paid the debt for those who are too poor to pay it themselves, but for those who see themselves as spiritually rich, they think they can pay this debt themselves. Their only “consolation” is the riches they have now, because they won’t have any of Christ’s riches for eternity. In Luke 2:25 Jesus is called, “the Consolation,” but He isn’t the Consolation for these people, and there will be no consoling them for eternity.

Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger” (Luke 6:25a).

The second woe complements the second blessing: Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled” (Luke 6:21a).

Again, Jesus isn’t discussing being physically full or hungry. Instead, just like the first blessing described those who with a spiritual hunger, this woe describes those without this hunger. The blessing was for those who hungered for righteousness, and this curse is for those who’ve had their fill of righteousness.

If these people don’t hunger for righteousness, but they’re full, they’re filled up with unrighteousness. These people are self-indulgent.

  • They give themselves over to the pleasure or decadence of the world.
  • They hunger for debauchery and engage in hedonism.
  • They live for nothing more than self-gratification, as they move from one or activity that satisfies their flesh to the next and the next.
  • They are stuffed with everything their flesh hungers for and the world offers.

The word hunger can be associated with satisfied:

  • When Jesus discusses those who are full, He means those who have satisfied their flesh and other sinful appetites.
  • When Jesus says they “shall hunger,” He means they shall not be satisfied later.

They’ll spend eternity very unsatisfied, as they long – or hunger – for comfort and consolation.

Questions to ask ourselves:

  • Do we think we’re spiritually rich? Do we think we have anything of value with which we could purchase our salvation?
  • Are we spiritually full? Do we have a hunger for righteousness, virtue, and truth?

Do you think people can be saved without recognizing their spiritual poverty and without having a spiritual hunger? Why or why not? Share your answer below!

You can listen to the sermon this is drawn from here.

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One thought on “Woe to the rich and full!

  1. […] four woes contain the same warning. You can live for this life or the next. We’ve already discussed the second and third. Let’s look at the third and […]

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