After discussing the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-23, Jesus discusses the woes in Luke 6:24-26. A “woe” is an exclamation of grief, because Jesus was pronouncing judgment on people who are rich, full, and laughing in this life. Understand what this means!
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A “woe” is a cry of pain that results from suffering. In particular, they’re the judgments awaiting four distinct groups:
- Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
- Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
- Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
- Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
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. The four woes contain the same warning. You can live for this life or the next.
The four Beatitudes form pairs with the four woes. They complement each other. Whatever is true regarding the blessing, the opposite is also true regarding the woe. :
1. Woe to the Rich
The first woe corresponds with the first blessing:
- “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).
- “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.
2. Woe to the Full
The second woe corresponds with the second blessing:
- “Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger” (Luke 6:25a).
- “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.
3. Woe to Those who Laugh
The third woe corresponds with the third beatitude:
- “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25b).
- “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21b).
Blessed are those who mourn over sin, and cursed are those who laugh at it!
Think of people who laugh at their sin and the sin of others. There’s no grief whatsoever regarding the sin they see around them or the sin they’re engaging in.
But Jesus says this present state of laughing is going to be replaced with weeping. This is the weeping that takes place while these people suffer for eternity in hell: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28a).
4. Woe to Those Whom Men Speak Well Of
This final woe corresponds with the final Beatitude:
- The fourth woe: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
- “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
Blessed are those persecuted for Christ, and cursed are those who love the praise of men. If everyone loves you and thinks you’re great, you should be worried. If that’s the case, you’re probably trying to please man instead of God. Being a servant of Christ means speaking truth, and truth is always unpopular with some number of people.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10
When Jesus discussed the blessing, He gave an example of people everyone hated: prophets. Fittingly when He discussed the corresponding woe, He gave an example of people everyone loved: false prophets. They tell everyone what they want to hear.
The prophets prophesy falsely,Jeremiah 5:31
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so.
But what will you do in the end?
False teachers today are the false prophets of the Old Testament:
There were false prophets among the people (referring to the Old Testament), even as there will be false teachers among you (referring to the Church Age or the New Testament).2 Peter 2:1
So while we don’t look for false prophets, we do look for false teachers, and one of the clearest signs is a huge amount of popularity. Think Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Rob Bell, Joyce Meyers.
But it’s not just about big-name people. We all need to be careful of things we say, whether we’re talking to people or posting something on Facebook. If we’re sharing only to be popular, with no regard for the truth, this woe should convict us.
Even though there are four different woes, they’re making the same point. Instead of seeing four woes making different points, see four woes making the same point four different ways. Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich, full, laughing, and popular NOW!”
As much as the Beatitudes describe those living for eternity, the woes describe those living for today.
To Jesus the terrible thing about having wrong values in life and pursuing wrong things is not that you are doomed to bitter disappointment, but that you are not; not that you do not achieve what you want, but that you do.H.H. Farmer
If you want to be rich, full, laughing, and popular now, you can have that. But that’s all you’re going to have. That’s the warning of the woes.
Are there any things you’ve had to give up living for eternity? What changes have you made in your life? Share your answer in the comment section.
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!