“For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” – Matthew 26:11
“Oh really?” I am willing to bet this was Judas’ thought when Jesus rebuked him here. Judas rebukes a woman pouring perfume on Jesus just days before His death, perfume that cost literally a year’s worth of wages. Judas claims that the money for the perfume could have been given to “the poor.” But Judas also regularly dips into the poverty fund for himself, making it obvious that this is more about greed and self-importance than helping anyone.
I’m going to try to keep this a little short, but here are some principles I have been learning about my journey to reverse injustice:
a) “The poor” is not a collective group; Judas groups people together to leave them unnamed, and thus open to being victims of injustice far more easily. In other words, I believe there’s a reason Judas did not say, “Cleopas the leper and his friends at the pool.”
b) Reducing goods to sheer “cost” is like reducing a poor person to their poverty: Is not the goal to enable people to live self-sufficiently? But once everything is put solely in terms of money, there is no subjective personality behind the goal. Ministry goes from holistic to holes.
c) Being concerned for our roles may lead to a loss of focus on Christ: Even if Judas was not being selfish in regards to sneaking money for himself, he was definitely concerned about being able to “do what he’s always done.” Ministry, especially among those who have less in society than us, requires great flexibility, not being overly concerned for how important we will become, or how often we will be able to be of a certain importance. The goal is, again, self-sufficiency for the sake of Christ. According to some commentators, this woman was probably poor and oppressed herself, and yet here she has enough to live on, giving it to Jesus instead. This woman has become poor in order to honor Christ; she will most likely have to identify with the poor for the rest of her life because of this, and yet Judas is concerned about helping the poor. Judas, wake up: she’s now poor, and she’s honoring Christ, receiving Him just as we would hope every person could!
There’s no use presupposing that we will all “wake up” when ministering; there will always be faults and poverty among us, yes. Even so, it is always more important to recognize Jesus as the goal and end of social justice. Indeed, there is no justice without Christ.