Jesus said in Mark 14:7, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” I don’t know if it is politically correct to call anyone ‘the poor’ today. Some people probably have a problem with even putting anyone into a category. I have trouble keeping up with what’s acceptable. We call them ‘needy’ or ‘lower income’ or ‘underprivileged’ or ‘those in need’. Jesus simply called them ‘the poor’ and everyone knew what He meant. And today we still know what Jesus meant. He meant we would always have poor among us. He meant we would always have those who are barely able to get by, and in some cases not even be able to get by. And in 2,000 years, he’s never been wrong about that.
Sometimes the poor come to church. Sometimes they come to Wednesday night dinners here at our church. I often see some poor at the food pantry. Poor people come to the Zerkle House thrift store that our church runs. I’m certain that Jesus is happy when we warmly accept them in the church and at the food pantry and at the Zerkle House.
In the story when Jesus says this, it’s the same thing. A woman, and a not so respected woman at that, comes into the home of a respectable and wealthier person where Jesus and others are eating. She anoints Jesus’ feet with a very costly oil. And Judas complains that it’s a waste of a very expensive product that could be sold for a hefty sum and the proceeds given to the poor. And Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”
Yet Jesus wasn’t content just having the poor with Him, coming to Him. He went to be with the poor (and the marginalized and the outcast). One could argue that Jesus went to the 10 lepers when He cleansed them. Luke 17:11 tells us that he was on the road between Samaria and Galilee when they met. He certainly went to the well to meet the Samaritan woman even though He arrived first. He went to be with the poor when He went to the Jordan River to be baptized among them by John the Baptist.
Nine people from our church went to be with the poor when we went an hour down the road to Huntington to feed 100 or so homeless people this past Thursday. Our church went to be with the poor when we had a block party in a low income neighborhood this past summer and when we went back to that neighborhood to deliver about 30 Gino’s pizzas between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We will be among the poor in march when we go to Haiti for a mission trip. I relayed a story about being among people much different than me in a coffee shop in Athens, OH in a blog in April. You can read it here.
Jesus is certainly happy when we warmly receive the poor among us, but there’s something special and an extra measure of blessing when we go among them.