LUKE 6 (cont.) THE REDISTRIBITIVE ASPECTS OF DIVINE JUDGEMENT

jcteaching
Jesus’ teaching of final judgement is dealt with more definitively in Matthew’s account (chapter 25 – considered a few posts ago). Luke, a companion of Paul [1] recorded Jesus as teaching that an individual’s status and suffering during their lifetime is taken into account at Judgement, both in his rendering of the Beatitudes, the negative aspects of which I have quoted above, and particularly in what is effectively the only account we have of an individuals’ experience in Hell [2]: the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the text of which requires careful attention (Lk16:19-31). The only stated criterion distinguishing these two men was that one had had a life of ease and comfort whilst the other had been poor and wretched (Lk16:25). It may be deduced (from vv27-31) that the rich man was suffering because of the way he had utilised his wealth; living wantonly whilst failing to show care and compassion for miserable beggars like Lazarus (with whom Jesus personally identifies – Mt25:45), yet no reason is given at all why Lazarus should be comforted after his death other than that he had experienced a life of poverty and sickness (Lk16:25); thus had he been salted (cf. Mk9:49). The redistributive or compensatory aspects of judgement at death are also emphasised in the letter of James who exhorts the oppressive rich to weep and howl for the miseries that are to come upon them (Ja5:1KJV). It is clear from subsequent verses that he is referring to the materially wealthy who obtained their wealth by defrauding and exploiting of the poor. James (as ever) is reflecting the teaching of Christ, who also had a word of warning for the well-to-do:
Alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have plenty to eat now: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who are laughing now: you shall mourn and weep (Lk6:24,25).

I now understand this to be partly a question of redistributive justice but that it also relates to the role and necessity of human suffering (salting) explained in the theodicy (chapter seven of my book). For sure, Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching needs to be taken alongside Matthew’s emphasis on more spiritual and moral qualities (Mt5): poverty of spirit, hunger for righteousness, kindness, compassion and purity. For a lousy crook may be poor but is hardly fitted for God’s Kingdom. So life experience, moral and spiritual integrity, and especially how one has treated the poor with whom Christ personally identifies (Mt25) will determine how one fares after death, and also when Christ’s kingdom is consummated, resulting in a change of fortunes for many (cf. Mk10:31).
[1] Some biblical scholars question whether the author of Luke-Acts could possibly be the Luke referred to as Paul’s companion in three of his letters; partly in view of seeming differences in the account of Paul’s conversion and subsequent events (Acts9:1-31 cf. Gal1:17-24); more particularly in view of their understanding that Luke’s theology was different to Paul’s, whereas I am in the business of demonstrating that Paul’s theology (once properly understood) does not contradict that of any other contributors to Scripture.
[2] strictly “Hades” being the place of the dead, an intermediate state between death and resurrection in which, according to Luke’s interpretation of Jesus’ teaching, disembodied spirits are nevertheless conscious and aware of either pain or comfort.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s