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“The Poor You Have with You Always” — Part 2

In preparing for my ministry at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel (their website is here) in New Jersey, I will be speaking on Sunday, September 30th, on the topic “The Poor You Have With You Always.” On the following Sunday, October 7th, I’ll be speaking on the issue of our using our spiritual gifts to serve in the local church.

There has been a rift between Evangelical Christians and liberal Christians on the issue of the poor.  For liberals, some believe caring for the poor is the gospel.  For Evangelicals, some focus on preaching the gospel and, only occasionally, look for ways to help the poor.

I’m intrigued by the event recorded in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12 when Jesus is anointed by Mary and her action is rebuked by Judas and the other disciples with the words “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”  Jesus’ response (we’re looking at John’s account) was to rebuke Judas and to say, “You will always have the poor among you.”  Some have interpreted those words as an excuse not to help the poor, but they need to read the rest of Jesus’ statement.  He continues, “. . . but you will not always have me.” (Jn. 12:8).

The worship of Jesus and the care of the poor are not mutually exclusive categories, are they?  Although on this occasion they appear to be.  Mary’s expensive perfume (which she might have saved up for over a long period of time) could only be used once.  And she chose to pour it out on the feet of Jesus.  She had to make a choice.  And, it appears, for her that choice was easy.  Jesus deserved her extravagant and overflowing worship.

Jesus or the poor?  That seems to be the question raised by Judas (and the other disciples, Mt. 26:8 and Mk. 14:4).  And the choice was not value-free.  In other words, Judas castigates her for her “waste” (the term “waste” is used in the Matthew and Mark accounts).  Judas might not have used that term, but that was his perspective.  This unnecessary, over-the-top adoration of Jesus was a poor use of something so valuable!

Of course, to de-value her act of worship was to de-value Jesus!  In this situation, with Jesus physically present, she did not consider choice “B.”  She went with her love and she poured out her heart and it was right that she did. (to be continued)

[I just had an article published on Patheos on the theodicy of Jesus.  Click here to view.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2018 in the poor

 

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“The Poor You Have with You Always” — Part 1

Friends:   One of the many joys of my life is my connection with Cedarcroft Bible Chapel (their website is here) in New Jersey.  The elders have me come every few months and preach on back-to-back Sundays.  Together we discuss church matters, do some Bible studies together, and pray that God would bless their work.

My next trip to Cedarcroft will be September 29-October 8.  I stay at my mother-in-law’s (she’s 92) while I’m there and catch up on episodes of “Little House on the Prairie”!  I enjoy spending time with Mom.

The elders have asked me to speak on two topics on this next visit:  our obligation to the poor and the issue of using our spiritual gifts in the local church.  So, let’s begin working on the first topic — our responsibility to the poor.

We’ve all heard the expression “the poor you have with you always!”  Yes, it was spoken by the Lord Jesus.  And, no.  It does not mean that we should not care for the poor.  The account which gave rise to His saying these words is found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12.  [I was a bit surprised that Luke doesn’t cover the event, for he shows a great deal of concern for the poor and the oppressed in his gospel].  Here is John’s account:

There are some differences in the details with the three accounts, but no real contradictions.  Here is what I found:

All accounts say this event took place in Bethany. Matthew and Mark say it was in the home of Simon the Leper. John says it was a dinner given in Jesus’ honor (with the raised Lazarus there!) Neither Matthew nor Mark mention Lazarus being there.

Both Matthew and Mark say it was a “woman” who came to Jesus. John says it was “Mary.”

Both Matthew and Mark say she poured the perfume on his head. John says it was on His feet.

Both Matthew and Mark say the disciples/some of those present asked, “Why this waste? Why was the money not given to poor!” John’s account says that Judas raised the question!

Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus rebuking the disciples (plural). John has the singular (“Leave her alone!”) said to Judas!

Interesting that it is Mark who says about Judas making a deal with the chief priests to betray Jesus (one would have thought that it would have been in John’s account).

In our next post, we will examine John’s account in more detail.  Is it ever right not to help the poor? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in the poor

 

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Wanting to Do Good? (A Story Concerning Poverty)

Simply wanting to do good is sometimes not enough. Lloyd Reeb (author of From Success to Significance) tells about visiting the country of Albania. Seeing a young Albanian beggar girl lying on a tattered blanket, her tears making clean lines down her dirty face, he wanted to do something. He quietly stuck some money in her filthy jacket and left. Sharing his story with a missionary, he was told, “That was the worst thing you could have done, Lloyd! You sentenced her to a life-time of street begging, for she is now branded as a very successful beggar!”

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2018 in poverty

 

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Psalms of My Life (Psalm 112)

Psalm 112

Praise the Lord.Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.27.46 AM

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
    and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.32.34 AM
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn[c] will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
    they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
    the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in the book of Psalms

 

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