Rich in Poverty

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. – Matthew 26:11

We all know who the poor are. It's obvious. We see them every day. Many of us actually fit the bill for being poor.

This passage from Matthew's Gospel is a troubling one. The context is the story of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, breaking open an expensive bottle of perfume and anointing Jesus' feet. The disciples grumbled saying, "This was expensive perfume. Why wasn't it sold and the money given to the poor?"

Jesus, though, saw things a bit differently. Mary was in poverty. She probably spent all she had to purchase the perfume so she could anoint Jesus' feet with it. In the kingdom of God, there is nothing more precious, more valuable, than the full self giving of oneself, in love, to God. Remember the time Jesus and his disciples were in the temple observing people giving their tithes? They saw both rich and poor giving money, but it was of the poor woman who gave all she had that Jesus said, "This woman has given more than anyone else. They gave out of their wealth, but she has given out of her poverty." The same principle applies here with Mary. Not only would it have been cruel to take the heart offered gift from Mary and give it to someone else, but it would be an insult to her poverty and sincerity in her self giving.

Jesus did not take what she did lightly. He was not glorifying in himself. Rather, he showed the utmost humility in receiving from a woman in poverty. He was not above her. He did not set himself as superior to her and her gift. He graciously received it.

The "poor" in the original quote are not merely those of financial poverty, but anyone who is in great need. Whether it be ignorance, addiction, entitlement, or whatever, these are people who are in deep and desperate need. We often think of them as victims of their own foolishness. And perhaps they are, but that does not eliminate their present situation.

As Christians, we are to condemn NO ONE. We are to love all. We are to pray for our enemies (and not in the sense of asking God to 'get them' or 'make them like us'), bless those who curse us and give sustenance to any who are in need of it.

The world is full of poverty of all sorts. We have not been called to eradicate it, as it will never happen, but we are called to love, to feed, to give.

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Christianity and The Kingdom

Is Christianity, as we have known it, Christianity? Or is Christianity something larger, something bigger than we have realized? Isn’t the name itself limiting, suggesting that Truth is confined to history rather than to the present and future as well?

Suppose Christianity has barely scratched the surface of the meaning of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Suppose that when Jesus said the kingdom is here that really is what he meant, and that His kingdom would grow just as other things grow. A seed is not apparently a tree, but after a long time that is what it can become. Do we really think that Christianity as historically defined is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness? Or that future generations will find themselves in no possession of truth beside that which we currently have?

If the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed then the fullness of the kingdom must be radically different in appearance than the humble beginnings. Who would ever deduce from appearances that a tree came from a seed? So it is with the Kingdom. To equate historic Christianity with the final and ultimate issue from the Seed, which is Christ, is foolishness. Eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for us. This refers not merely to the eschaton, but to the reality of the growth of the Kingdom in this world.