In Matthew 26:11, Jesus makes this claim concerning the poor:
For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
This statement is made after a woman anoints Jesus’ feet in Bethany, to which Judas scolds her for it. He is upset because the perfume could have been sold in order to provide food for the poor. [However, I really doubt Judas was concerned about the poor. I think he was more concerned about his own empty pockets, then the empty pockets of others, as John 12:6 speaks about.] This one passage is used more than any other to assert that poverty will always be, and there is nothing we can do to change that.
Many use this verse to justify their lack of response in helping those who live in poverty. But do they (do we) understand what Jesus was saying here?
Listen to what Jesus is NOT saying:
- Poverty will always be here on earth, so don’t do anything about it.
- You can try to defeat poverty, but it won’t work.
- Poverty is all around us … oh, well. Stinks to be them.
- Give some money to those in need, but don’t necessarily give if it hurts you. Give, but don’t let it cost you anything.
The above things focus on part of what Jesus said, and not the entire message. Remember, Jesus was talking about a woman who was worshiping her Savior – Jesus the Christ. Just as it was (is) good to give to those in need, so it was (is) good to worship the presence of God. He calls us to both forms of worship. When Judas spoke out against this, Jesus corrected him by saying, “Look, you will always have opportunities to care for the poor, but you will not always have means to worship Me in the flesh. So take advantage of these times, now.”
Jesus understands that there will always be people without things, and He knows that there will always be people with plenty – enough to share with those who have nothing. [After all, that’s why He’s blessed us in the first place, right?!].
POVERTY and EXTREME POVERTY
Extreme Poverty is defined as:
The lack of basic security connotes the absence of one or more factors enabling individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights. The situation may become widespread and result in more serious and permanent consequences. The lack of basic security leads to chronic poverty when it simultaneously affects several aspects of people’s lives, when it is prolonged and when it severely compromises people’s chances of regaining their rights and of reassuming their responsibilities in the foreseeable future.
Yes, the poor will always be with us, in the sense that there will always be people with a need to be filled. However, I don’t think that there will always be extreme poverty. Nor do I believe that Jesus says that extreme poverty will always exist. There’s a difference. One simply describes someone being in need of something vital. The other describes those who live in places where their conditions cause them to live in need. One we will have with us, and one we can eliminate – forever.
Look at Deuteronomy 15:11 (which is similar to Matthew 26:11):
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
We have been greatly blessed by God, and He expects us to use our gifts to bless others. He calls us to give until we have given all that we can – until it hurts. We are told to give that which God has given to us, knowing that He will continue to supply all of our needs (Matthew 6-7). We are told, that to worship God correctly, we are to worship Him out of our love for others: this means taking care of those who have little to nothing (Isaiah 58, James 1:27). Again, while there will always be people who have needs to be fulfilled, out of the abundance of OUR plenty, WE can eliminate the conditions that cause people to live in extreme poverty.
The two questions are this:
- Do you believe this?
- What are you going to do?
ENDING EXTREME POVERTY
There is a new ministry-strategy happening called “58: Fast. Forward. The End of Poverty.” This
movement was started by Dr. Scott Todd, Senior Ministry Advisor at Compassion International. Watch the video below. Get educated about what is stirring within the global Church. Seek God’s discernment on how and where you can get involved. Then “fast forward” into action.
No more excuses. God has given us a mandate, and He expects us to follow through with it. No matter what.
Live 58: is bringing their efforts of ending extreme poverty to the big screen. Here is the trailer for the film, along with the site to find out more information about the project.