Summary: Jesus tells us we will always have the poor with us -- but what are we supposed to DO with the poor?
There should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you. If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (NIV)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages."
He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (NIV)
I was telling someone the other day about an experience I had in my first pastorate. A lady came into my office, asking for help. She looked desperate. She was dressed in dirty, old clothes. She had a baby in her arms. She was a single, unwed mother. She was 15 years old when she became pregnant, and she’d run away from home. She’d been gone for 2 years, but the night before coming to my office she decided to return home to her parents--baby and all. She told me she came to the church hoping I could give her money for a bus ride.
I hesitated. The church usually tries to help people like this, but as a general rule, it’s usually best not to simply give away money.
Besides, I only had ten bucks in my pocket. There was no money around the church. Normally, with cases like this I’d call the treasurer of the local minister’s fund. All of the ministers in that town tried to use a common fund for things like this. But it was 5:00 on a Friday and I knew I’d have trouble getting the money from the minister’s fund.
Then the baby started crying. I finally gave her what money I had and wished her well.
About a week later, I saw her. I was at the Salvation Army visiting the minister there – you know they call ministers “Captains” in the Salvation Army. He and I were talking when I caught sight of her in the far corner of the room. So I asked the Captain, “You know that girl?”
“You bet I do,” he told me. “Let me tell you. She has quite a scam. Every Friday, she has a baby sitting job. And she takes the baby she’s caring for and drives around town from church to church, giving ministers a sob story and asking for money. And if the ministers show any hesitation at all, she’ll reach down and pinch that baby on the behind. Makes the baby cry!”