In St Matthew's account of the beatitudes, Jesus preaches from a mountain, which in the bible signifies the nearness of God. In Luke’s account, Jesus descends from the mountain to a level place. Perhaps this can be seen as an image of God coming down to join his people. He had spent time in prayer and had chosen his apostles. He had already been criticised by the scribes and Pharisees for choosing compassion above the Law. The beatitudes are always a challenge to the world. In his own time riches and long life were often seen as a sign of God’s favour. Today wealth and fame are celebrated; Jesus turns this concept upside down.
Luke’s gospel, particularly, seems to highlight God’s care for the afflicted, with the stories and parables he recounts. The rich man is condemned, not for being rich, but for enjoying the good things of life while failing to notice the beggar Lazarus on his doorstep. The Good Samaritan looks after a wounded stranger; Zaccheus is inspired to give away a large part of his wealth. It is not that poverty and hardship are good in themselves, but that those who suffer deprivation or marginalisation are God’s precious children, though they are overlooked by society. In Luke’s account those who are living the good life are castigated. This is not to suggest that enjoying oneself is bad; after all, Jesus turned well over a hundred gallon of water into wine at Cana so that the celebration of the wedding could continue. His condemnation was of those who seek only their own pleasure, often at the expense of others.