The Poor will always be with us

Recently a non-christian activist friend of mine had the misfortune to have this verse thrust in her face by a Christian as a reason to ignore social justice issues and focus purely on proselytising:

“”The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11)”

Oh dear =(

This person obviously doesn’t read their Bible’s properly, since the point of the story is about a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet, and the lesson the disciples learnt from this about devotion to Jesus first and foremost before other important priorities (of which addressing poverty is key). If they had read their Bibl’es properly, they’d also note that Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 15:10-11

“Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

This person also seems to suffer selective amnesia.. because in the previous chapter of Matthew, Jesus says this:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)

It appears Christians will take Sola Scriptura as far as they can if it lets them avoid issues that make them uncomfortable. Check out these links for more info:

http://www.justpeace.org/lent43.htm

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/1720.htm

http://ragarambler.blogspot.com/2004/12/poor-you-will-always-have-with-you.html

  • Deuteronomy. 15:10-11
    “Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”…
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~ by humblemonkey on July 1, 2009.

11 Responses to “The Poor will always be with us”

  1. I just had a friend say this on my FB status this evening. In fact, I stumbled onto your blog from a Google search while trying to find Shane Claiborne’s eloquent and faithful response to this argument, which is simply, “Are we with the poor?” Of course! The poor would always be with the disciples; those are the very people Christ taught them to be with. But will we ever be accused of being with the poor always? I hope so . . .

    I like your blog.

    peace.

  2. By the way . . . my “of course” is not a response to Shane’s question and more of an exclamation agreeing with him that the real question is if we’re with the poor and not if Christ was trying to say that eradicating poverty was implausible or impossible. Just some clarification . . .

  3. Hey Ciona.. thanks for your comments! Yeah, Shane’s comments are astute. Are we with the poor? It is obvious Jesus is, but we usually fail on that task (hence the rise in New Monasticism/Intentional Communities.. the Holy Spirit prompting christians to once again move to the fringes of the empire and live in solidarity with the marginalised).
    I love reading Mother Theresa’s letters… she is my touchstone for stuff like this. I’ll never forget one thing she said (I’m paraphrasing though).. “Only when we get to heaven will we realise just how much we owe to the poor, because they helped us see God”. Wow!

  4. It’s unfortunate that you say “It appears Christians will take Sola Scriptura as far as they can,” as if this would include all Christians.

  5. Hi Pat
    The full sentence reads:
    “It appears Christians will take Sola Scriptura as far as they can if it lets them avoid issues that make them uncomfortable.”
    The way the sentence is structured means it logically only applies to a group of Christians.. big or small.. who abuse Sola Scriptura. Obviously this is not all Christians, else it would be pointless me writing the post in the first place.

  6. Relating the above quotes to today’s political challenge. Should the government take responsibility for the poor (uninsured) at the expense of “personal” responsibility? At what cost to pesonal reward? (Heavenly!)

  7. I love it when Atheists try to teach scriptures.

  8. I am a Christian and am often amazed at how some Christians (actually most Christians) think that people on welfare should not be on it because they are taking without earning. It is shocking that they want to take away free lunch programs, after school care, reduced cost housing, health care for those who cannot afford help, etc. all because they perceive that these people are taking away from them and being abusive.
    As someone who is also closer to poor than rich, I can tell them that when they go on expensive vacations, stay in summer homes, spend thousands on pocketbooks and shoes, while letting people go hungry and without medical care and thinking this is okay, then they are the ones who have entitlement issues and not the other way around.
    Matthew 26:11 has always bothered me and i never knew it was a quote from Deuteronomy…so I learned something… thanks!

  9. It is wrong to use Matthew 26:11 or Mark 14:7 (or the similar narrative that had happened four days earlier {six days before the Passover} in John 12:8) to promote socialism. The United States government should NOT require its citizens to provide for the poor (especially since it is a very inefficient way to help the poor), but Christians should try to help the poor & love their neighbors (associated-ones: Greek “playsion”). Christians should desire less government; we should prefer less government NOT more government; government is a necessary evil.

  10. @Randy Kain:
    “It is wrong to use…to promote socialism.” Why? The scripture speaks for itself, and since most Christians are trying to insert their religious views into government it seems only fitting that the government enact policies that follow biblical directives.

    “Christians should try to help the poor…” that sounds nice, but over 200 years after the founding of a country that many say is a Christian country, Christians helping the poor is still woefully inadequate. If all government assistance programs were to be stopped, the amount of suffering/starvation would increase exponentially, and that doesn’t sound very Christian to me.

    “Christians should desire less government…” I was unaware that more or less government was a theological issue. Perhaps you could help me understand where this idea comes from.

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