“For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12:8 NKJV)
Things were a little tense at the household of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was dinner time, and while they were eating, Mary was moved to anoint Jesus with a costly spice, usually used in burials, and then wipe His feet with her hair. While the soothing aroma of the spice filled the air, Judas threw a stink bomb into the mix when he criticized Mary because she didn’t sell the oil and give the money to those who were poor. John lets us know here that Judas, although he was the team treasurer, was a thief and he was bemoaning the lack of embezzlement opportunities that kind of money would have given him. Jesus, who made a point of caring for poor people, paid homage to the short time He had left on earth and rebuked Judas, noting that her gift prepared for His burial.
The sad thing about this verse is that it’s often been used by people to excuse their lack of concern for poor people. The idea expressed is that since we’ll always have people who are poor around us, we shouldn’t worry about them. Rather than permission to avoid helping the poor, I think Jesus is reminding us that while we serve Him, we also need to remember those who are poor. Another extension of this concept comes from Jesus when He told us that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him. When we consider sacrificing, we need to remember that we don’t need to prepare Jesus for burial anymore. He conquered death. But, we still need to be willing to sacrifice to help those living in poverty. When Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, it wasn’t a command, it was a challenge to minister to people in need. Poverty has many faces in our world today, we’re called to minister to them as we’re able and even beyond what we think our abilities might be.
Lord, make me sensitive to meet the needs of those who don’t have enough food, to those who are being trafficked, to those who need help. Let me be Your heart, Your Hands, and yes, Lord, even Your wallet to meet those needs.