Jesus didn’t always make sense to his disciples.
At the end of Matthew 25 he tells them that the people who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven with him are those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned. Then while they are eating dinner a few days later a woman pours an entire jar of expensive perfume on Jesus.
The disciples totally freak out asking, “How much food, how much water, how many clothes could we have purchased for the hungry, thirsty, or naked with the money spent on that perfume!?”
It is in response to this that Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you.”
Personally, I think and feel that many members of the Church use Jesus’ words here to not take care of the poor in the way that the rest of the Bible commands us to. I feel like Christians today use this verse as a qualifier for hoarding their own wealth and possessions in the same way that they used Paul (speaking to slave owners) to justify having slaves in the 17 and 1800s.
Let me be clear in saying THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ INTENT!
Jesus precedes, “The poor you will always have with you,” with, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.” Which makes sense when we look back at Matthew 25, “…just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me…”
You see, it wasn’t JUST taking care of the poor and needy that got the sheep into heaven. It was because they were serving the King; just like the woman with the perfume.
When Jesus rebuked the disciples he didn’t mean for them to STOP serving the poor and needy; his intention was to say, “Don’t judge the way others use their gifts to serve me. Don’t you serve out of self-righteousness. Don’t make your service something to be measured. Let it be pure. Do it as though you were doing it for me! Don’t make it a competition between each other.”
Scriptures say the world will have unbelievers until the day of judgment when every knee will bow, but the Church still spends millions, billions, and trillions of dollars trying to fulfill the Great Commission by ‘winning souls’ for Jesus. Why don’t we attack poverty with the same resolve, energy, and commitment that we put into evangelizing?
Just because the poor will always be with us, doesn’t mean we can stop serving them.