The biggest barrier to helping the poor……is misunderstanding Jesus’ wordsEfforts to help victims of the recent famine in Somalia have been thwarted, in part, by thecomplex political situation that prevents aid from reaching the people in need. In many war-torncountries, this is often the case.But a far greater barrier exists when it comes to helping the poor. This barrier is reinforced eachtime a well-meaning Christians lean back and say, “Well, you can’t solve the problem. After all,Jesus said ‘the poor will always be with us.’” Their implication is that Jesus said it was ok to beindifferent or not attempt to help the needy—a message which completely contradicts countlessverses in Scripture.This misquoted and mis-interpreted scripture has done far more to hurt the world’s poor than any political or military barriers. It is Christian indifference and apathy (often ironically disguised as“busyness”) that keeps us from the joyful task of being generous to the poor. While the poor arestill among us, we are actually making great progress in lessening extreme poverty and disease.(Check outhttp://www.live58.orgfor details)The context of Jesus’ remark is this: he’s at a dinner party where a woman (the gospel of Johnidentifies her as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazurus), breaks open a jar of very expensive perfume and pours it out on Jesus. The disciples (again, John points to a specific disciple, JudasIscariot) grumble about what a waste of money this is, when the perfume could have been soldand the money given to the poor. After all, just a few verses prior, Jesus had told them what theydid for the least, they did for him. (seeMatthew 25: 31-46)But at this dinner party, Jesus corrects the disciples who are busy calculating the financial cost of Mary’s worship, without remembering the cost that Jesus was going to pay in a few days. Theycompletely miss, because of their stingy hearts, the significance of what she did.
“When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. "Why are you giving this woman a hard
time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor withyou every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body,what she really did was anoint me for burial” (Matthew 26: 10-12, The Message).Two points of context are critical to understand this passage.First, Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. The rabbinical teaching style was different from our westernmethod, in which the teacher spits out facts, the students listen and regurgitate those facts.Rather, the ancient Jewish method of teaching involved answering questions with questions,alluding to other sources, using illustrations that were sometimes not explained (parables).Jesus, like all rabbis of his day, made a habit of quoting the Hebrew Scriptures. Even quoting afragment of an Old Testament verse was understood to be a way of referring to that snippet’sentire context.
Great insight on a critically important issue. I hope people argue about it because that would show that we care about the issue. The ease with which people shrug and move on from this point is our real battle. The 58: site with the data is actually live58.org (project58 is cool too, but not the same group). Thanks for your article!