Ye have the poor with you always …
Three gospels include the story of the woman who came and anointed Jesus the week before His crucifixion. The story is included in Mark, the first Gospel that was written, meaning there’s no chance that it was added after 50AD. Interestingly, the so-called “social gospel” named for Luke doesn’t include this prophecy of Jesus. [Could it be the author excised this from his account because it didn’t fit with his agenda? Luke 4:18, Luke 14:13, Luke 18:22, Luke 19:8.] But that’s not the point of this post. Recently, the fluffy bunny nice nice club head when it began tearing into
the Mormon viewpoint on tithing. (No it wasn’t Tim-I liked his post a lot).
The interesting thing about the accusations, however, is that they were given by an evangelical who holds both an inerrant and infallible viewpoint of the Bible, yet they seem to be completely ignorant of the story that is repeated in three of these gospels.
All three accounts agree the setting was in Bethany before the Passover and before Jesus’ crucifixion. Mark and Matthew record the house as belonging to Simon the leper. John implies the house belonged to Lazurus (the brother of Mary and Martha). The various accounts mostly agree that a pound of spikenard ointment was used by a woman to anoint Jesus feet, and hair. Mark says some present were indignant, Matthew says it was his disciples, and John firmly places ALL of the blame on Judas Iscariot. Mark points out that this ointment was worth 300 pence, or 300 working days of a day laborer. In today’s terms, that works out to around at least 15000$ in today’s (minimum wage) standard.
Mark: “Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.”
Matthew: “To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.”
Mark then writes:
“6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
How does this relate to Mormonism? We believe we’re doing a good work, one we believe Jesus has commanded (DC 124). I believe the principle is exactly the same. Sure we could give everything to the poor, but I don’t believe the context of Jesus’ teachings require that of everyone, nor do I grant you (or any other mortal) the authority to judge any other individual or faith group. You can certainly choose whether or not you contribute to a church based on how it uses its money, but judgment is not something reserved to anyone but Jesus.
Let’s return to the scriptural account. Mark points out that after this episode, Judas decided to defect, apostacize, and betray Jesus. Given the knowledge that John placed the major guilt on Judas, and that Mark said immediately after this Judas apostacized, and betrayed Jesus, could we possibly read into this the fault finding and judgementalism that leads to apostasy? It certainly seems that way. Which I consider highly ironic when this very similar charge comes from someone who has apostatized from what I consider to be the true church.
I agree that Jesus taught that Christians should relieve suffering. We should feed the hungry, and cloth the naked, and that we should be doers of the word. I completely agree. I just neglected to read the portion where Jesus said you should judge and condemn others who don’t do it as well as you think they should. I do think Jesus had a word for that, though…
I trust that Jesus wasn’t lying though, there will always be poor. Until His kingdom is established, there will always be poor. I am still obligated to help, but not the way other people tell me I have. I laud Jack’s obedience to spirit in supporting the group that she felt she should. I laud Tim’s obedience to the spirit he has in supporting what he believes is the work of God.