Saturday, August 11, 2012

Always with you

I don't use religious texts as a basis for making decisions, but I recognize that a lot of people do.

I've heard some of them cite Matthew 26:11 as a reason for not giving. Days before Jesus' execuation, a woman pours expensive perfume on him, and Judas complains that the perfume could have been sold to raise money for the poor. Jesus answers,

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.

Today I learned that this, like many of Jesus' sayings, was a reference to the Torah. Jesus and his audience would have been familiar with the full Deuteronomy passage:

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.

Not quite the "don't bother helping the poor" message the Matthew passage is often used to further.


  1. In the Deuteronomy passage the command doesn't seem to follow from the first sentence. Whether there will always be poor people doesn't seem relevant to whether you should help them. As in, if you learned "someday we'll solve poverty and no one will be poor" how would that have bearing on what you should do now?

  2. Learning how to talk someone else's "language" is key to a healthy dialogue. Most people will respond to someone who uses Matthew 26:11 as reason for not giving by simply dismissing the whole Bible on account of other passages having nothing to do with giving or not giving. Kudos for getting out of your comfort zone and coming up with an approach someone basing their decisions in religious texts can relate to :-)

  3. Jeff, maybe it's a "don't think this is a one-time thing" type instruction.