Most everyone has heard of Jesus’ unforgettable lessons taught at what has become known as the “Sermon on the Mount“, what I believe to be the greatest single speech or teaching ever given.
On that day, as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave us the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule.
He told us that we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world“, that we should love our enemies, and taught mankind on a wide variety of issues from divorce to money to managing our anger.
But lesser known was his “Sermon on the Plain”, as described in Luke’s Gospel.
After beginning with some blessings similar in many ways to the Beatitudes, Jesus goes on to warn us of our own greed and selfishness:
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
We can’t make good money, eat well, have a sense of humor, win friends, and influence people? What does he expect, everyone to sit in a cave naked, eating crickets and praying solemnly for our entire lives?
What Jesus was warning of was something that has taken root in American society today. A “me-first” culture, sometimes a “me-only” one. He was warning us that focusing on our own ego gratification was a sure way to miss out on a place in Heaven.
Jesus was not saying that it is bad to be rich, but that those who are blessed with wealth need to manage it responsibly, share it willingly, and use it’s benefits well for the betterment of mankind.
He was not saying that it was bad to enjoy good meals, but that we should do nothing to excess, and that we should share any excess with those who have little or none.
Christ was not saying that we should not laugh. On the contrary, a good sense of humor is a blessing. He was saying that we should not laugh at the plights of others, putting down and shutting out those less fortunate in life than ourselves.
Finally, he was not saying that it was bad to wish to be thought well of, but that we should not be so consumed with needing to feed our ego with the approval of others that we neglect to love our neighbors.
If God has blessed you with excess, there are many ways that you can heed Jesus’ warnings. You can donate material wealth to charities. You can volunteer in service to worthy causes. You can put a smile on another’s face. You can help call others to the Lord.
Provide well for your family and yourself. Enjoy the finer things in life when they come to you.
But always remember that health, wealth, happiness, and peace of mind are all gifts from God, and that you are expected to share them with and spread them to others as much as possible.