You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. Mark 14:7, NLT
Once a year in December, the church I grew up in took a church bus down to a community center in the city, where we brought gifts for the poor kids. Although my church provided my only interaction with the poor, I didn’t really think of caring for the poor as part of how I lived my faith.
In my religious context, I often heard Jesus’ words about “the poor always with you” interpreted as a fatalistic pronouncement, saying that since they’d always be there, being poor, there wasn’t much we could do. And so there wasn’t anything we had to do.
In the last five years, I’ve been on a journey in which God has challenged the assumptions of my religious upbringing, and rocked my affluent white suburban worldview. I’ve taken classes, read books, served breakfast monthly at a homeless shelter, taken in foster kids.
When Jesus said, “You will always have the poor,” He was using a common rabbinical technique of quoting a snippet of a Hebrew Scripture in order to refer to its context. He referenced a passage His listeners would have recognized: “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need” (Deuteronomy 15:10–11, NLT).
I believe following Jesus means looking not just at the words He said, but the words He read—and living my life accordingly. The Old Testament was the Bible Jesus read, and loved, and lived by. For me, part of loving Jesus is giving generously to the poor.
FAITH STEP: Spend time reading and reflecting on Deuteronomy 15:1–10. Sometime this week, give to the poor not by writing a check, but by volunteering at a soup kitchen, food pantry or shelter.
Contributed by Keri Wyatt Kent
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