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Author Topic:   You Will Always Have the Poor
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 77 (756229)
04-16-2015 7:05 PM


quote:
Matthew 26:613 (NRSV):

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, 'Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.' But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.'


What is the purpose of this verse?

It is hard to reconcile it with Jesus' general position of placing the poor on the top of the list of priorities.

There's an obvious conflict in this scene of course. Jesus has to be anointed. But many readers might ask "why not sell the oil and give the money to the poor like Jesus suggests the rich man do in Mt 19:21?" And, indeed, the disciples foil out that very question.

Is the verse in question the only answer the Gospel authors could think of or does it have some deeper meaning?

And what does it say of the Jesus character?


Love your enemies!

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Phat, posted 04-16-2015 7:14 PM Jon has responded
 Message 5 by nwr, posted 04-16-2015 7:30 PM Jon has responded
 Message 12 by NoNukes, posted 04-17-2015 11:13 AM Jon has responded
 Message 75 by Hyroglyphx, posted 01-01-2016 5:22 AM Jon has not yet responded

  
AdminPhat
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Joined: 12-03-2004
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Message 2 of 77 (756231)
04-16-2015 7:07 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the You Will Always Have the Poor thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Phat
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Posts: 10082
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 3 of 77 (756232)
04-16-2015 7:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-16-2015 7:05 PM


Po Fo Sho
It appears to me that its simple logic. There will always be poor people and we can feed them anytime we dare. Jesus is simply telling Judas...who hoarded the valuables...to quit whining about spent money.

Saying, "I don't know," is the same as saying, "Maybe."~ZombieRingo
It's easy to see the speck in somebody else's ideas - unless it's blocked by the beam in your own.~Ringo
If a savage stops believing in his wooden god, it does not mean that there is no God only that God is not wooden.(Leo Tolstoy)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-16-2015 7:05 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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Jon
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 4 of 77 (756233)
04-16-2015 7:23 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Phat
04-16-2015 7:14 PM


Re: Po Fo Sho
There will always be poor people and we can feed them anytime we dare.

Like after they've already starved to death?

Jesus is simply telling Judas...who hoarded the valuables...to quit whining about spent money.

Who said anything about Judas? And no one is whining about "spent money". The complaint from the disciples is that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor just like Jesus preached earlier.

Jesus seems to go against his earlier teaching to excuse the woman's exaltation of him, which paints Jesus as a little more selfish than usual.

What's the point of this?


Love your enemies!

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 Message 3 by Phat, posted 04-16-2015 7:14 PM Phat has acknowledged this reply

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5540
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


(3)
Message 5 of 77 (756234)
04-16-2015 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-16-2015 7:05 PM


Isn't this about the same as "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".

The woman was generous and well intentioned. This was the wrong time to criticize her.


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-16-2015 7:05 PM Jon has responded

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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 77 (756249)
04-16-2015 11:54 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by nwr
04-16-2015 7:30 PM


Isn't this about the same as "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".

The woman was generous and well intentioned. This was the wrong time to criticize her.

That explains "Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.", but it doesn't really explain Jesus' comment about the poor.


Love your enemies!

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Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by nwr, posted 04-17-2015 12:42 AM Jon has responded
 Message 74 by Phat, posted 07-06-2015 6:09 PM Jon has not yet responded

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5540
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 7 of 77 (756254)
04-17-2015 12:42 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jon
04-16-2015 11:54 PM


Then I think you are reading too much into it.

Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 04-16-2015 11:54 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 77 (756260)
04-17-2015 7:10 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by nwr
04-17-2015 12:42 AM


You Will Always Have the Poor
But am I?

The statement is rather unusual for Jesus. It's repeated in three gospels and has held some good weight in circles of Christians who believe it can be used to relieve them of the burdensome charge of helping the poor:

quote:
"Rick Perry, Hungry for Redemption, Says He's a 'Substantially Different' Candidate" from The Washington Post:

In the Post interview, he was asked about the growing gap between rich and poor in Texas, which has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.

"Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion," he said. ...

Perry acknowledged that the richest Texans have experienced the greatest amount of earnings growth, but dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, "We dont grapple with that here."


And if you do a Google search for this phrase, you will find countless websites attempting to explain this scene to a population of Christians hellbent on excusing themselves from the daunting responsibility of being Christians.

That Christians might interpret these words as divine support for laziness should be no surprise; such an interpretation apparently developed pretty quickly in the gospel communities.

In Mark, the first written telling of the story, the contradiction between Jesus' words at the anointing and his usual teachings is tempered with a follow-up reminder that the poor still need help:

quote:
Mark 14:67 (NRSV):

But Jesus said, 'Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.


In Matthew this reminder gets dropped.

By the time the story is told in John, the ethical situation of the whole scene has changed with Judas asking the question not for the sake of the poor but because he wants to fatten his own wallet:

quote:
John 12:18 (NRSV):

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 'Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?' (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.'


The scene arguably no longer has anything to do with the disciples' genuine concern for the poor, and so any controversy or perceived disagreement originally present in the scene has been eliminated with John's redaction.

Since the gospel writers were so keen on lessening the reference to Christian duty, it's no surprise the passage got 'upgraded' at every turn. What is a surprise is that the whole conversation takes place at all. It seems as though our bumbling disciples finally think they've gotten one right only to see a 180 from their holy friend and be left further confused than before.

On this note, and this goes to the faith/belief side of the coin, I think it's worth a good discussion as to:

  1. why the disciples chime in when they could have been kept silent and eliminated the need for any awkwardness, and
  2. what this scene says about the Jesus character and his potentially conflicted relationship to the poor.

Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by nwr, posted 04-17-2015 12:42 AM nwr has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by nwr, posted 04-17-2015 8:21 AM Jon has responded
 Message 10 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-17-2015 9:59 AM Jon has responded
 Message 17 by Faith, posted 04-17-2015 12:03 PM Jon has responded
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5540
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


(1)
Message 9 of 77 (756262)
04-17-2015 8:21 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
04-17-2015 7:10 AM


Re: You Will Always Have the Poor
The statement is rather unusual for Jesus.

That's hard to say. Nobody was taking notes of everything said. What we have, instead, is a somewhat mythologized account. It's more a record of what the early believers thought important.

... and has held some good weight in circles of Christians who believe it can be used to relieve them of the burdensome charge of helping the poor

That's literalism for you. The literalist ignores the clear intentions, but instead looks for wording that can read as giving the permission to do what they really want to do anyway even though it is contrary to the main teachings.

We recently saw something similar among orthodox Jews:
KosherSwitch: A Loophole for Orthodox Jews Who Think They Cant Turn Electricity On/Off on the Sabbath.


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Jon, posted 04-17-2015 7:10 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by Jon, posted 04-17-2015 11:36 AM nwr has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11816
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 1.6


(3)
Message 10 of 77 (756267)
04-17-2015 9:59 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jon
04-17-2015 7:10 AM


Re: You Will Always Have the Poor
the contradiction between Jesus' words at the anointing and his usual teachings

I don't think its contradictory. Jesus preached to help the poor, but I don't recall Him every saying that the goal was to eliminate their existence.

That's just practical.

It seems as though our bumbling disciples finally think they've gotten one right only to see a 180 from their holy friend and be left further confused than before.

I think the scene has more to do with glorifying God than it does with the poor, with a reminder that Jesus is God.

The lesson I see there is that, while we are charged to help the poor, that doesn't mean that you have to stop adoring God in the process.

Or, even though helping the poor is an important service, you don't have to stop all the other good things you are doing to focus solely on that.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Jon, posted 04-17-2015 7:10 AM Jon has responded

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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 77 (756270)
04-17-2015 11:02 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by New Cat's Eye
04-17-2015 9:59 AM


Re: You Will Always Have the Poor
Jesus preached to help the poor, but I don't recall Him every saying that the goal was to eliminate their existence.

That seems like a copout.

I think the scene has more to do with glorifying God than it does with the poor, with a reminder that Jesus is God.

Jesus isn't God in Mark, so I'm not sure how much that interpretation can explain the scene as a whole.


Love your enemies!

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 Message 10 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-17-2015 9:59 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
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NoNukes
Member
Posts: 10069
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 12 of 77 (756271)
04-17-2015 11:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-16-2015 7:05 PM


Is the verse in question the only answer the Gospel authors could think of or does it have some deeper meaning?

In theory, the Gospel authors were not free to make stuff up.

I think the issue here is that Jesus saw through the disciples pretense to be caring about the poor. The disciples complaint could be applied to any expenditure. What the complaining disciples were really disturbed by was Jesus relationship with the woman.

In actuality, was Jesus going to take the woman's oil and give it to the poor? Could the disciples do that? Was there any indication that the woman had taken away any money earmarked for the poor? Did the disciples not have resources that they could have spent on the poor?

general position of placing the poor on the top of the list of priorities.

The poor were not at the top of the list of priorities. What gave you that idea?


Je Suis Charlie

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-16-2015 7:05 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
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New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11816
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 13 of 77 (756273)
04-17-2015 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Jon
04-17-2015 11:02 AM


Re: You Will Always Have the Poor
Jesus preached to help the poor, but I don't recall Him every saying that the goal was to eliminate their existence.

That seems like a copout.

What do you mean?

I think the scene has more to do with glorifying God than it does with the poor, with a reminder that Jesus is God.

Jesus isn't God in Mark,

Huh?

so I'm not sure how much that interpretation can explain the scene as a whole.

Jesus was preparing to be crucified as the Messiah. The woman was glorifying Him. The disciples said "What about the poor?" and Jesus replied, "don't worry about them now, this is important too".

You've read to much into the "they'll always be here part" and missed the other part of the scene that was more important.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Jon, posted 04-17-2015 11:02 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by Jon, posted 04-17-2015 12:06 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 77 (756274)
04-17-2015 11:36 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by nwr
04-17-2015 8:21 AM


Re: You Will Always Have the Poor
That's hard to say. Nobody was taking notes of everything said. What we have, instead, is a somewhat mythologized account. It's more a record of what the early believers thought important.

Sure. But we still have a complex Jesus character worth discussing.

Whether the things reported are true or not doesn't take away our power to discuss the way the scenes fit into the overall narrative and accompanying belief system.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by nwr, posted 04-17-2015 8:21 AM nwr has responded

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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 77 (756275)
04-17-2015 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by NoNukes
04-17-2015 11:13 AM


The poor were not at the top of the list of priorities. What gave you that idea?

What exactly do you think topped his list?


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
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