But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. (Luke 6:24)
Does it make any difference to you, rich as you are, that the very Word of God incarnate spoke these words as a woe, to "scare the hell out of you" (if I may be so brazen)? Then what will it take to wake you up to what is about to overtake you forever and ever? "Woe to you who are rich!"
"But wait!" you may say, "I'm not rich. I'm barely scraping by."
In comparison to the vast majority of the inhabitants of this earth, even the poorest American would be considered rich. Rich means having more than you need, because you refuse to share it with those who have less. And those who are not content with what they have are driven by their desire to be rich. The earth itself is reeling under the effects of the greed that continually raises the minimum acceptable comfort level in the eyes of Western society. Indeed, many "woes" lie ahead for much of humanity, both in this life and beyond.
A woe is a cry of pain from misfortune or, in this case, for deliberate sin against humanity in the way rich people gain their fame and fortune, and in the way their admirers strive to be like them. Their woe is an eternal woe.
See the contrast in Luke 6:20-26 between verses 20-23 and verses 24-26. The "woes" are in contrast to the blessings of the previous verses. Those who don't realize their spiritual poverty, but trust in their own achievement, will reap disaster for eternity.1 Those who are full now will suffer hunger eternally; those who laugh now ("the life of the party") will mourn and weep eternally. The well-to-do religious leaders He was speaking to had egotistical pride, desiring recognition and praise for their greatness. The desire for all to speak well of them required them to compromise their conscience.
Why is there a woe for the rich? Because they have received their comfort, for which they strove all their life. Or perhaps they inherited it, having never once worked for it, for it fell right into their hands. One way or another they are rich, and they are receiving their comfort in full, just as Luke 16:25 tells of the contrast between comforted and tormented. In verse 27 the rich man becomes an evangelist for his own family members, but is all the more tormented, for he knows the fate or destiny of his five brothers.
Our Master, Yahshua the Messiah, suffered woe for three days and three nights, in pain -- the pangs of death2 -- so that all who would trust Him would be blessed as a result of identifying with Him,3 that is, those who were saved from their sins4 of selfishness, greed, and unjust business practices that hurt others. Just As God presented blessings for obedience and woes or curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28, the Son of God presented blessings and woes to His disciples who were living in anticipation of being worthy of His Kingdom.5
2 Corinthians 5:10 tells of the time when His disciples' works would be evaluated -- the works that were prepared for them before the foundation of the world.6 "Woe to you who are rich..." One does not become rich by doing the works prepared for him. The comfort that the rich seek first for is not associated with the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.7 In Luke 1:51-53, all the rich receive is what they sought first for -- comfort, security, physical well-being in this life only.8 Matthew 6:25,28,31-33 separates or distinguishes the Holy (His disciples) from the Gentiles.9
God or Mammon? The time will come when these two masters will make opposing demands.10 The gospel calls for all mankind to invest in their future with Him by giving all they have and all they are to Him now, while He is far off, and not waiting for His return.11 Mammon is the collection of material comforts for present enjoyment, but woes await him who indulges in Mammon.
In Luke 6:24, rich means abounding in material resources, and comfort means that which affords comfort or refreshment. The rich here are not necessarily filthy rich, but merely those who have more than they need and do not share with others who have less than they need, such as a neighbor whose poverty is apparent. The rich are those who are at ease,12 but do not care for the needy whom they see, and whose need is obvious.
To have one's comfort in full speaks of the comfort he enjoyed in this present life, which was gotten at the expense of others who were not so well off. Likely candidates are unjust businessmen, doctors, lawyers, dentists, Christian pastors, psychologists, and politicians. They could think of little else but themselves in their pursuit of riches and honor. They obtained their comfort and pleasure through selfish ambition, through their college degrees, assuring them more success and opportunity to make it in this world, regardless of how they hurt others in the process. They are included among those in Revelation 22:15, according to how they made their living and success. They prospered at the expense of others, to whom they lied to gain the income that they wanted, but did not need, except to fulfill their evil desire to gain more riches in this life. Sooner or later, they are headed for what is promised by the Word of God.
They can choose either this outcome:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:9)
Or, this one:
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Notice that in verse 9 it is the desire to be rich that leads to ruin and destruction, whether or not you actually succeed in becoming rich. It is in the decisions you make in the pursuit of wealth and comfort that you push past your conscience and hurt yourself and others.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Comfort is a condition of pleasurable ease or well-being, which was their goal in life.13 The rich in Luke 6:24 are contrasted with the poor in Luke 6:20 -- those who need lifting, who have fallen into poverty from having their needs taken by the predators -- the rich who want their comfort instead of a good conscience. The poor in Luke 6:20 are those with a good conscience, who would not gain wealth to the detriment of others. The poor earn their bread by their own hard labor. They are not on welfare.14
So the one in Luke 6:24, who is enjoying his comfort now, will be denied any sort of comfort throughout eternity in the second death sentence.15 This, as applied explicitly to "believers" in 1 John 3:17, condemns the rich Christian who preferred to have his physical comfort in this life, to the detriment of others who are supposed to be his brothers.16
The disciples were mostly poor men17 who had come to trust in God, as Luke 6:20 says, "For yours is the Kingdom of God." They were promised God's rule -- the Kingdom. But concerning the religious rich in Luke 6:24, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, lifted up His eyes and spoke to them the woes in verses 24-26, and today, 2000 years later, He still speaks through His true disciples.
So today, you have the choice. The opportunity is yours, for not only do you have Moses and the prophets, as Luke 16:31 says, but also the very words of the Son of God are written down for you by His very own people, with His urgent plea. Now is the time to repent as in Luke 14:31-33. Lay all you have at His feet, which is the same as the feet of His disciples. Surrender unconditionally to this coming King while He is far off, even as the first disciples did on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:36-47 and 4:32-37. Don't lie to the Holy Spirit as in Acts 5:1-11.
Many today forsake the treasure that is worth more than all the riches and fame the world could offer. That treasure is to know the true Messiah! There is only one way to get this treasure. Messiah is the only One who has it. The treasure is hidden right there in Him, as He said, "I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life."18 To circumvent Him is to circumvent forgiveness and eternal life from the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But the treasure has great cost to one's flesh. It is a free gift, but who does God give it to? To know the Father is to know the true Son; to be loved by the Father requires one to love His Son.19 He gives eternal life only to those who really trust in Him, which means to obey the gospel of Messiah, requiring one to abandon all -- everything, including all of one's possessions -- in order to be able to follow Him, just as He commands.20
Consider what we say and come to see us!