Consider the following question:
“If I don’t really feel any need for Jesus in this life, if my life is actually pretty good and I don’t need Christianity (or, more generally, religion) to support me in any way (e.g., psychologically, socially, intellectually, etc.), why would I bother disrupting my life by becoming a follower of Jesus? My life is good, and I’m pretty much content.”
In Luke 6.20-26 Jesus begins his teaching by giving a series of “blessings and woes.” Both “blessings” and “woes” are statements that connect the present and the future. The word “blessed” (along with its negative counterpart “woe”) means “fortunate’ (e.g., in Acts 26.2 Paul is addressing himself to King Agrippa, and he says, “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you…”; the word translated “blessed’ here in Luke 6.20-22 is the same Greek word and has the same meaning in both places). That is, Jesus is saying, “It will go well in the future for one who is/does such-and-such now.”
So, Jesus first says: Fortunate are…
– “the poor”, because they will reap the benefits of the coming reign of God (v. 20);
– “those who hunger now“, because they will be fed” (v 21a);
– “those who weep now“, because they will laugh” (v. 21b);
– “you whenever men hate you and when they exclude you and vilify you and reject your name as evil on account of the Son of man”; indeed, he says, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy”–why?–“because your reward will be great in heaven” (vv. 22-23a).
These are astonishing words. In the “woes” that follow Jesus addresses the antithetical persons–i.e., those who are “rich” and “satisfied” and “who laugh”–when?–now, who enjoy the favor of all men.
Why is there “woe” to them? Why are they, in fact, most unfortunate?
Because they “are [i.e., presently/now] receiving their comfort.” Because they will be hungry and will morn and weep.
Why does Jesus pronounce “woe” upon those whose lives are comfortable? Jesus says that such persons will go hungry, will weep. I.e., they will be judged. They are going down—all of them. Why? What is so wrong with complacency?
Jesus judges complacency strongly because it constitutes conformity to the status quo, and in Jesus’ opinion the status quo is marked by rampant oppression, exploitation, etc., etc. Complacency and “contentment” constitute a condoning and a colluding in a world system that is built on values that stand in direct opposition to Jesus. There is no neutrality.
Jesus is unapologetically apocalyptic: the world MUST be turned right side up, because it is presently upside down. Complacency and kingdom don’t gel.