Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"You Will Always Have The Poor With You"

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her.

But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me."

(Mar 14:3-7 NAS)

"Here is a clear case of Jesus fatalistically acknowledging the perpetual existence of the poor and showing the priority of worship over social concern-- or does He?

Interestingly, Jesus quotes directly from Deuteronomy 15, the chapter containing Jubilee and sabbatical instructions. Earlier in the passage God tells the Hebrew people that if they obey Him there will be no poor in their land. But He does on to say that if they harden their hearts there will be poor. As long as greed and selfishness continue the poor will be among them. Does this justify a callous looking the other way which neglects the poor?

Just the opposite. "For the poor will never cease out of your hand to your brother, therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land." (Deut. 15:11). In light of His continual plea on behalf of the plight of the poor, it's hardly conceivable that in this one verse Jesus is contradicting the bulk of His teaching by telling us to tighten our pocketbooks since after all the poor will always be around and there's not much we can do about it. Rather, He is saying that since greed and ambition will continue to govern the lives of people and their social systems, there will always be poor. They are a natural product of greedy systems. The observation of the fact does not justify it perpetuation. In light of this reality, how much more do we need ot care and give and be sure that we are not part of structures and organizations which trample the poor!"
-The Upside Down Kingdom, Donald B. Kraybill

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