Will the poor always be amongst us?

The poor will always be among us—is that an excuse for not seeing people thrive on this earth? When Jesus said: “you will always have the poor among you,” what do you think he meant?

a) there will always be work to do (including helping the poor) for God’s people
b) do what you can, but don’t expect to make any significant difference with the poor
c) it is part of God’s plan for some people to be poor
d) whoops, you got it wrong Jesus! God said there should be NO poor among you…’

Would you believe that sincere godly Christian people interpret this saying in all of the ways above?  How can that be? Are we reading the same Bible? My observation is that more often than not, we’re actually not reading the Bible at all when we get into debates about issues like this. Instead, we rely on and use “Bible sound bytes.”

We’re all familiar with sound bytes in media – bits and pieces of interviews to give us the basic idea of what was said or took place. These were originally intended as “hooks” – short pieces to catch our attention and draw us in to hear or read more. Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to so many of these every day, through various forms of traditional and social media, that we don’t take the time to get the full story.

A major drawback of sound bytes is that they lack context – the background and bigger picture needed to understand the full story. You can’t read the Bible this way. Every saying, story, teaching, commandment, and person in the Bible lives within an important and necessary context.

So what do we do with our “you will always have the poor among you” sound byte? We are going to dive into interpreting this text over the next several Warehouse updates, but there is an obvious place to start: the actual story! It is important to read and understand the text, rather than our best recollections of scripture. In this case, the verse being quoted is found in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:1-8.

By reading the Bible, we are already one step beyond the sound byte. Let God speak to you through these words of Jesus and we’ll go further together next time…

Arthur Stewart

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