The disciples were indignant at what they regarded as wastefulness when a woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’s head. Jesus replied, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
Is Jesus suggesting that the poor are his ambassadors; something to remind us of the values he represented when he was with us? Remember: “Inasmuch as you did it for them…”
The poor have been just that to me during the ten-and-a-half years of my ministry as pastor of this downtown urban church. I’ve been challenged nearly every day by the needs of the materially poor.
This is unique. I was a pastor for 18 years in a rural congregation before coming to Hamilton, and I was only occasionally called upon to help the poor. The deaconal fund of that church grew and grew until we decided that we should start releasing money to Christian ministries. The poor were almost absent. We had lost out on the lessons that the poor have to teach us.
Here are a couple that I’ve learned:
- The poor are willing to admit they are poor. To confess your neediness requires considerable courage. The need does not take away the courage of asking for help. That’s why Moses said, “Do not be tight fisted toward the poor.” They have suffered enough not to endure the suspicion of those who have the means they need.
- They endure poverty without complaint. Of course they often complain that they don’t have much money, but I have seen very little evidence of resentment or anger toward people who earn $50,000 or more and drive nice cars.
- Their level of contentment is not less than rich people. Some people downtown walk about with a garbage bag in hand. That bag may contain all the material possessions they own – a Frisbee, a couple of DVDs or VHSs, some clothes, etc.
- The help that the church gives is never very much – a $10 grocery voucher, a couple of $3 bus tickets, a bag of fresh fruits or vegetables once per month. When these gifts are given with some grace, the response of gratitude is sometimes overwhelming. I have often felt that I’ve received far more than I’ve given.
People are not more righteous because they are poor; but those who are poor have taught me a lot about righteousness, humility, contentment, and gratitude. We should honour and respect the poor and thank Jesus for putting them in our path.
by Pastor Paul Aasman