People on food stamps should be drug tested.
If people worked harder we wouldn’t need welfare.
If people really needed IDs they could get them easily.
I work hard for my own stuff, why can’t they work hard for theirs?
If people didn’t make bad decisions, they wouldn’t be poor.
I wish these were statements I was making up. Unfortunately, I have heard all of them. And I don’t just mean I have seen them posted by often unnamed social media users. I have heard people say these things out loud.
Now, there are going to be times when good people, well-intentioned people, disagree on issues. But I am not addressing that disagreement with this post. I want to address our attitudes towards poor people.
Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you,” and we have taken that and run with it. Since the poor will always be here, why should we worry about them? Since we will always have the poor, why should we think we could actually do something to stop it?
One thing has troubled me for years:
Jesus did not say that in the context of a capitalist economy. Jesus was not saying, “It is inefficient to work on the poor so find other areas to spend your money that provide a better return on investment.” Jesus was not saying, “It is hopeless.”
Jesus was saying at a specific event at a specific time that having His body prepared for burial was a precious gift that should not be mocked.
In John 12:1-8, Jesus is anointed with some expensive oil. Judas asks why the money was not spent on the poor.
But John is quick to point out that Judas was not asking because of his concern for the poor; Judas was asking because he wanted to keep the money for himself.
And Jesus did not say, “The poor will always be with you,” and leave it at that. He also added, “But I am about to leave.” Jesus knew His death was imminent and the anointing that He received prepared Him for His death, burial and resurrection.
Unfortunately, too many of us have taken the first part of Jesus’ statement (The poor will always be with you) to excuse some pretty bad attitudes and behaviors towards poor people. If we can view the poor as “other,” as “them,” as moral failures, then we can justify in our own minds not doing more to help. We can rail against higher taxes and more government offices. We can call for stricter rules and regulations without considering the impact on those below middle class. We can scoff at increased minimum wages and protect the executives’ bottom line thinking they will share their wealth.
But I have to ask: how should we be treating the poor? Not from a political policy perspective, but from the viewpoint of people who claim the name of Jesus as our identity, how should we treat the poor?
She was poor.
She was an outcast.
Her medical condition caused her to lose her livelihood and her well-being, but all people noticed was that she was not clean.
Since she was not clean it was okay that they disregarded her.
Since she was not clean it was okay if no one helped her.
Since she was not clean it was okay if she was not included in the crowd.
Since she was not clean it was okay if no one noticed her.
Since so many other people treated her as if she was garbage it made sense that she would think He would do so, as well.
Since religious leaders and social elites would not welcome her it made sense she did not feel welcome when approaching Him.
Since she was not clean it made sense that she tried to touch His cloak without Him noticing. After all, everyone else despised her. Why should she think He would be any different?
But He was different. She grabbed the corner of His cloak believing that would be sufficient. She wanted to stay hidden.
But He noticed. And He called out to find out who touched His cloak. Even when His followers scoffed at the idea He could notice one person’s touch among the multitudes He continued asking who touched His cloak.
So she came forward. Afraid. Nervous. Scared about what might happen now.
And Jesus called her “daughter.”
He did not see the unclean. He did not regard her as an outcast. He did not look past her because she did not have what the other person He was helping had. He saw her. And He called her daughter.
Because when Jesus meets the poor, He sees daughters and sons of God.
May we all.