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God’s Word for You

Luke 6:25b Woe to those who laugh

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 15, 2018

Woe to you who laugh now,
because you will be mourning and weeping.

Jesus again uses the word “now.” By this, he means that this “woe” is about those who laugh and are delighted with the pleasures of this world, “now,” as opposed to those of the next. Jesus isn’t disparaging the laughter of Christians, a view once taken by some extremists. He is condemning those whose attitude is “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (Exodus 32:6; Luke 12:19).” Solomon says, “It is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him” (Ecclesiastes 5:18). But the Christian knows that our true pleasures will come in the resurrection. Then we will say, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:2).

At that time the unbeliever, once laughing, will be crying and in agony. Most unbelievers—atheists, agnostics, and those who worship other gods—don’t think there will be a hell at all. And if they concede that there might be one, they tend to count on being able to talk their way out of it. They think that if something bad happened to them here in life, that they’ve already done their time, so to speak, and they won’t have to spend any time suffering. But they will learn their mistake and it will be too late.

The fleeting life of man is something like the brief flight of an arrow. It is nocked, and then in a single violent event we are born, but the time of our flight is so short! Sometimes arrows are flawed: the shaft might be bowed or bent, or the head misaligned, or the feathers imperfect in some way. If the arrow is flawed it will go wide or curve and miss its mark, and so the bowman compensates as God compensates by aligning the path of our lives according to our gifts. Unlike an arrow, we have some say in our destination—but only insofar as we can distort God’s good aim with our sinful twisting and turning in our flight. And then we are sunk deep into the target like being buried in death, only to be drawn out again by God in the resurrection. Where should we focus our attention during our brief flight? It must be our goal, heaven, but we like to focus on anything else instead. We writhe around in mid-air and become fascinated by anything and everything else. We want to change the course of our flight for no good reason, as if there are joys more important than the joys of our goal; the joys of eternal life. But God warns us, tells us, invites us to trust in him, to think about our destination, and he promises that he will supply all our needs until then, and forever after.

Jesus gives us another insight into the suffering of hell in this verse by describing it as “mourning and weeping.” To mourn (pentheo, πενθέω) is to be sorry and grieve over a loss. This can be the loss of a loved one, or of a status, or even of property or opportunity. Those in hell mourn the loss of all of these things, but especially the loss of the grace of God. To weep (klaio, κλαίω) is to cry or shed tears, which needs no further explanation, except to say that Jesus places both of these things in the future tense. These things will be actions of those in hell, just as laughing is the action of the damned here “now.” Therefore mourning and weeping are not part of the punishment inflicted on the damned in hell, but they are their actions in response to their punishment. Jesus uses the same imagery when he warns the people of Galilee that there will be weeping in hell, and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28). The true punishment of hell is total separation from God’s grace. There is fire and agony there. There is also a loss of power and strength. The dead in hell ask the newcomer: “Have you also have become as weak as we are? Have you have become like us?” (Isaiah 14:10, EHV). Those in hell are also powerless to do anything about their loved ones, for whom they still feel compassion: “I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). But God works on earth through the gospel, and those who reject the gospel are lost. “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The grace of God scooped you and me out of that pit of despair, and sent us flying toward the goal of heaven. Give him praise for your passage through life toward eternal glory, however brief or difficult it may be. Then our mourning and weeping will end, and we will laugh with our Savior our of pure joy forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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