Sunday, December 05, 2004

"The poor you will always have with you..."

I was reading Naomi's blog, and her post about the budget deficit and cuts proposed in Minnesota. She quotes their governor as saying "...there is a spending problem in this state in the area of human services," to which she definitely (and appropriately) took exception. In response to her posting, a person commented, "Jesus said the poor would always be with us. We can't spend or minimum-wage them out of poverty."

That really irked me.

I agree that Jesus did say, "The poor you will always have with you." It is important, however, to note that those words were spoken in the context of a poor woman pouring precious nard on the feet of Jesus. The objection was, "Why waste that stuff on Jesus? We could be feeding the poor!" Jesus points out that worship and reverence to the Son of God (not to mention physically ministering to the 'Son of Man') ought to be first, and everything else should follow that. The entire quite says, "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me" (Matthew 26:11)

For me, the real danger is that we hear "The poor you will always have with you..." and we allow the unspoken tagline to be "...so screw 'em - we can't fix 'em all, anyway." However, if you look at the record of Christ's work while here on earth, it shows that he spent much, much more time healing, feeding, and restoring "the least of these" than he did anything else. Sure, Jesus didn't heal them all, or feed them all - but that's no reason not to make efforts to try a priority.

I have always understood that a primary function of democratic government is to provide for those that cannot help themselves. That's why it always blows my mind that we as a culture (at every level of government) seem to ensure that the strong-healthy-wealthy one is taken care of, and the weak-and-struggling 99 are often left to fend for themselves amidst the dregs and the cast-offs from "polite society."

I live in Chicago. I still find it amazing that infrastructure for wealthy neighborhoods continues to get first priority under the reigns of The Son of Daley and Herod of Blagojevich, while funding for the Chicago Transit Authority - the primary transit option for "the least of these" (including me) - is in serious danger of being drastically slashed. Trust me - the folks up on the Gold Coast and out in Naperville aren't standing out in the cold to find gas for their Lexuses (Lexi?) or Hummers...but I know what it is to stand in the cold waiting for a bus, because I can't afford car insurance as a member of the working poor.

I've said it before (here), and I'll say it again - I will never understand why so much of the Christian world considers homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching," and yet blithely ignores the *demands* of Matthew 25:31-46 as some sort of "we'll get to it someday" suggestion. A careful reading of that text would put most of the all-too-holy evangelical Christian church in the "goat" category. And the text is all too clear about what the goats get...

10 comments:

Drew said...

You know this is something that I struggle with....

I find that my heart aches to make a difference in this world....but the question is often - who is making a difference in my world? Its hard to rise up and do for others when you can't do for self.

There are so many out there that have it worse than I do. My heart breaks and aches for them. But it seems that the mind of the nation is not set on that but on the consumerism and materialism of today. We care more about those things than about things that really matter like - prejudices, racism, unemployment, healthcare, housing issues, violence, and other things. Why? What makes us focus on the things that are not important.

Sometimes I get wrapped up in it too. What a shame. When will we ever learn? Will we ever learn?

What shames me the most is that Christians have dropped the ball. We care more about our suburban homes and our SUV's and our pretty churches than we do about those who go without food or proper housing or jobs. We are self centered and deserve to be chastized.

I'm through.....

Naomi said...

Yea, that comment on my blog irked me too. They person continues to comment on my blog completely missing and understanding my points. Thanks for you comment and reflections on your blog and for giving me something new to read each day.

AutobodyCAD said...

Here is "that person". I am not the "Anonymous" that was bugging Naomi earlier though. I've only been blogging for a week. I think I posted anonymously once, and even then I put my name at the end.

Paul(I think) said to speak the truth in love. I freely admit I come at this issue from a mind-first approach, as opposed to heart-first. I like to speak the truth, the love part comes not so easily; God's still working on me too.

As far as the context of Jesus' comment to the woman: there is no indication that SHE was poor. Indeed, she had owned a bottle of expensive perfume. As Ragamuffin says, 'we allow the unspoken tagline to be "...so screw 'em - we can't fix 'em all, anyway."' Some folks, that is indeed what they imply, though that was not my own intent.

This my thrust: When did Jesus press Herod or Pilate or Caesar to take care of the poor? In fact, he did not. He entrusted disciples (beievers) with this responsibility. And He tells families to take care of their own. Name one thing the government does efficiently. Still thinking? The needs of the poor are best met by us directly, not through a governemnt program.

Heidi Renee said...

hey you - i'm preaching on sunday and was searching this verse, and your blog came up 2nd in my google search - thanks for this post reminding me again why i love to read your words steve! your passion is so moving.

JenH said...

AutobodyCAD has it correct:

"This my thrust: When did Jesus press Herod or Pilate or Caesar to take care of the poor? In fact, he did not. He entrusted disciples (beievers) with this responsibility. And He tells families to take care of their own. Name one thing the government does efficiently. Still thinking? The needs of the poor are best met by us directly, not through a governemnt program." (ignoring the mis-spellings) :)

We need to help others learn to take care of themselves and to WORK. People need to be thankful for what they have. Not everyone makes the same amount of money and has the same "stuff". Thanks, in part, to the welfare state, many "poor" people have priorities of cell phones and SUVs, yet they still need food stamp cards and WIC? Are they spending time teaching their children the Bible and showing them how to live it?
I have a heart for the poor and give when I feel led, but I don't feel for the "moochers" out there. Socialism creates problems.

BTW, I'm a hard-working single mom and I don't have time to blog or post much, so I probably won't check back on this. (I'm jus' sayin'...) :-)
~JenH

Bonnie said...

in re:"Thanks, in part, to the welfare state, many "poor" people have priorities of cell phones and SUVs, yet they still need food stamp cards and WIC?", I say Where did you get this information? This is nonsense spread by the powers that be who want inequity to stay as it is. A welfare recipient with an SUV?? Get real!

and to the quote"The needs of the poor are best met by us directly, not through a governemnt(sic) program."
I can only say that to the extent that the government has CREATED inequity, it is the responsibility of government to correct it. And truly it is up to "us," but how many of us who call ourselves Christian actually follow the commands to share our God given abundance with those in need.

I will continue to pray for those who do not understand

normhaslop said...

Most of us probably feel that we are in the "least of these" category because there are so many who have no lack of things - unlike those of us who fear for the future. Of course, we are also aware that many others fall below us in possessions and some who really are not sure they will get another meal. The point of Jesus' saying what He did was to say that love and devotion to Him comes first - then our love for others will be properly motivated.

Your last statement sounds as though you believe that it should be reversed; but unless we have been redeemed by Him, our works are empty and we will be counted with the goats....not the other way where our works become the atonement required by God.

Mark said...

Bonnie (5/28/11 7:57 AM)...

Does it make sense to you that the government that caused the problem is the best choice to solve the problem?

You also do realize that the government that is doing such a bad job is doing so with your money anyway?

Government isn't our savior, nor the agent of our salvation.

I, personally, choose to put my trust in competent agencies and will continue to work toward a society where people are able to take care of themselves, and when they can't, their families and local communities step in to help them. If this currently can't be done because government (again) has successively enacted policies that undermine the family and community (in part, by taking over their role) then I will work toward changing that government while the current system may be a necessary evil.

In many of these situations the government can do more good by stepping out of the way and letting competent people and agencies do what they know how to do best.

I will continue to pray for those who do not understand that (actually I will pray for us all to have greater understanding, not pompously pray for others who lack my "enlightenment").

Marlene A Hibbard said...

Steve F. in regard to your comment about evangelical Christian's being the goats, you need to read When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert.See how things have changed since 2004 in the Body of Christ. Sorry we aren't perfect, just forgiven.

Anonymous said...

along with saying the poor will always be with us jesus reminds us to treat the least of us as if they are christ. If you see someone in need and can help the bible days you should.