Who were the poor in the Gospel of Luke?

The poor in Luke’s gospel represents individuals caught in social power structures which impedes mobility and intrinsic value one has in community. This, obviously includes people without economic means, but Luke portrays a greater motif than monetary lack.

To be poor, is to be powerless (Acs, et al. 2018). For Luke, the poor are synonymous with the blind, oppressed, lame, hungry, mournful and persecuted (4:18, 6:20-24, 7:22). Even the sinner, according to Luke, is castigated by the exclusionary religious social structures of Judaism in Jesus day and could be considered as poor (Green, 70). The rich are identified as those wielding or desiring coercive and worldly power such as the Pharisees, Scribes, and at times, even Jesus disciples themselves (9:48, 11:37-53, 16:19-31, 20:46-47).

For Luke, the gospel is very good news for the poor, and judgement for the rich. He recounts Mary’s Magnificat at the start of the gospel. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (Luke 1:52). It’s against this backdrop of the marginalized, and disadvantaged, that Jesus comes as the Messianic emancipator in a ministry of Jubilee’s release (4:18-19). Jesus’ ministry to the poor includes many signs and wonders, healing, exorcisms, forgiveness of sins, and even raising from the dead to illustrate for us the nature of His sent mission to liberate all who are hungry for mercy. Those whom society had rendered valueless, Jesus has affirmed worthy. Throughout Jesus ministry, Luke portrays the prophetic Magnificat in motion as the self exalted are exposed by the teaching of Jesus and mercy, and the humble are in word and deed lifted up through healing, inclusion, and love (18:14). All who are willing to receive Jesus, to identity and obey Him, are lifted out of their bondage of this present age, and become children of the Most High (6:47, 8:15, 8:21). It’s no longer about your social status or lineage.

Luke is careful to include Jesus earthly origins as well, his humble beginnings as one not born into earthly power. Jesus comes to the poor, among the poor (2:7, 2:24). The Father has always been toward the disenfranchised, even the gentiles (4:26-27). He chooses disciples from among many classes, from sinful fisherman (5:8), to tax collectors (5:22). 

After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Luke concludes that his followers, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”(24:52). The ministry of release is complete! In Jesus, regardless of race, gender, or present infirmity, we are all equally rich, free, healed, and welcomed participants around the table of God (14:23). 

References:

Acs, Maitreyi, Conner, Markus, Patel, Lyons-Padilla, and Eberhardt. 2018. Measuring Mobility from Poverty. US Partnership on Mobility From Poverty. Accessed April 8, 2020. URL: https://fuller.instructure.com/courses/5010/files/677569/download?wrap=1 

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