“YE HAVE THE POOR ALWAYS WITH YOU?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Sometimes, the Lord Jesus Christ is perceived to be callous or insensitive as touching the poor and destitute. After all, in Matthew 26:11, He said, “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” What should we conclude here? Was Jesus really being unsympathetic?
Come to Matthew chapter 26: “ Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,  There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.  When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.  For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.  For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”
Upon first glance, Jesus seems rather cold-hearted. However, He in no way diminished the unfortunate plight of people disadvantaged and needy. Consider the background, and all will be clear. A woman anointed Jesus’ body with fine fragrance, so the disciples grew upset and exclaimed, “How she wasted that expensive substance!” They argued the aromatic herb could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus mildly corrected them for their confusion and mixed-up priorities. He would be alive for just a day or so more, so they needed to treat Him with respect while He was present with them. In the parallel passage (Mark 14:3-9), the wording is: “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always” (verse 7). That is, “You will have plenty of other opportunities to help the poor, but you will not have another chance to do good to Me like this woman has just done!”
Indeed, He Himself had even spoken in Deuteronomy 15:11: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” The Jews should help the poor, should be compassionate toward them, but they should never confuse the creature with the Creator (Romans 1:25).