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.

Authority, Freedom, and the Bible

I think it is the enduring and very human quest for certainty in a world that does not readily produce certainty that leads men to subject themselves and others to that which they believe to be of divine origin. Authority is the name of the game, and the West is infatuated with it. The most obvious symptoms are bondage to certain ways of thinking about the Bible, the Church, and God. It seems to me that such bondage rarely if ever produces joy and peace and happiness. Jesus, on the other hand tells us that we ‘shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” And elsewhere in scripture is the verse, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

I have to ask, where is this liberty and freedom which bring peace and joy among those who claim to have an absolute earthly authority? Is it not obvious that that which characterizes them are rules, regulations and a certain kill-joy attitude? A straw man? Perhaps, but often all too true. Freedom is seen as freedom to be bound by the rules and live by them; to be static; to move through life as a train moves along a track, bound to it and guided by it.

Ones view of authority is, in my opinion, born out of a basic fear of abandonment by God. Either one succumbs to that fear and finds ‘divine’ guidance in concrete forms which are then elevated to infallible status, to be transgressed at ones own peril, or one overcomes that fear, throws away the fig leaves and says, Here I am in all my sinful brokenness, deal with me, God as you will, and I will trust you. One looks to an authority outside of God that supposedly has God’s divine stamp of approval, the other looks to God himself and rests in Him.

I do not think there is any absolute authority in this world and to assert that there is is to snuff out the liberty that belongs to the children of God and ensnare them to bondage. God has written His law on our hearts. We have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and we know right from wrong. It’s part of being human to know these things.

While I love the Bible and believe it is the meta-narrative of Salvation I no longer believe it to be a book intended to tell us right from wrong as if we didn’t already know. It is the story of how God has provided for us in Christ through sinful people who, knowing right and wrong, did both anyway. It is the story of how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. It is a story designed to provoke faith, not guilt. It is a call to trust, not a judgment against us. It is a story of Resurrection and the restoration of all things, not of how bad things really are.