Friday of Epiphany VI – Luke 6:17-26

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

In the 16th century the richest man in Europe was Jakob Fugger. He was not a king nor a prince of any sort. In fact, he was not from the nobility at all. He was primarily a banker but also held interests in several mining enterprises. Most of the kings and princes of the time owed him money. The Holy Roman emperor was so indebted to him that he became the de facto host of many imperial events. The Augsburg Confession was first read at a gathering of leaders within the halls of Jakob’s massive palace in Augsburg in 1530.

Jesus draws a sharp line today between the rich and poor. Jakob heard those words and feared that he was on the wrong side of our Lord’s balance sheet. Before he died, Jakob established a house for the poor. 350 poor people were to be given an apartment to live in within the building which he built. They would pay rent of one thaler per year. (A thaler is the origin of our term for a US dollar.) Jakob was a very astute businessman. His bank still operates. You can find “Bank of Fugger” ATMs in Germany to this day. He shrewdly established a foundation to support his project and today his poor house still exists. 500 people are given a place to stay for the cost of one Euro per year within its facility.

Had he listened to that Augsburg Confession read within the great hall of his palace, Jakob might have acted differently. The Lutherans spoke of justification by grace and not by works. God’s favor cannot be bought. But be careful. It may well be my own selfish greed which suggests that since God’s favor cannot be bought, I have license to give nothing. I wonder, had Jakob heard and believed that message of grace, would he have done even more? Do you do more because God loves you? Does that question make you wonder which side of Jesus’ ledger you are on? Wealth is never yours, not really yours. It is entrusted to you by God. How will you use it?  

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