In verses 24-26, Jesus pronounces four woes: On the rich, on the full or satisfied, on the happy or laughing, and on those that people speak well of.
Why does Jesus speak these woes? Because all the rich are lost? No. The Bible clearly teaches that some rich people are saved. In this Gospel, Luke tells the story of the conversion of Zaccheus, a rich tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). So Jesus (and Luke) are not saying that all the rich are lost.
There are two reasons for Jesus to make these statements:
First, the crowd assumed that wealth was a sign of God’s approval. Now, they were correct in thinking that riches come from God. As David says in 1 Chronicles 29:12, “Both riches and honor come from You.” But it is wrong to assume that these riches that come from God constitute a reward for godly behavior. As Jesus says in today’s text in verse 35, “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Consider: His kindness includes healing the ungrateful who are ill, and providing riches to ungrateful, evil men. Jesus pronounced these woes so that His listeners would know that riches are not a sign of God’s favor.
Second, riches are not only God’s kindness but also God’s test. Indeed, riches are a test that many fail. When God gives us riches, we are tempted: Will find security in our riches or in God? Will we find happiness in our riches or in God? As Jesus says in Luke 18:24-25:
“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
This statement is particularly sobering for us, since by the standards of Jesus’ day, virtually everyone here this morning is incredibly rich. Our riches are a test. For me. For you. Having wealth does not indicate that I am Son of Most High.
Is your wealth keeping you from discipleship?