Helping the poor is one of the most useful slogans to use in political campaigns to secure popularity and gain ascendancy to political power. After all, who would fault those who wish to help the poor and do something to alleviate their misery!
Politicians also know once social inequality becomes severely widespread, their enemies could use such issue to bring them down from power. The poor in fact becomes pawns to be used by those who intend to benefit from their plight.
Helping the poor is not the sole concern and manipulation for politicians. Even religious practitioners will capitalize on such theme to further their interest. One such case has to do with the Lord Jesus Christ receiving a very expensive gift of anointment before He went to the cross. It wasn’t a pleasant incident.
Matthew 26:6: Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Matthew 26:7: 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.
Matthew 26:8: But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
Matthew 26:9: For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
What this woman did clearly upset the disciples. Upset is actually an understatement. Indignation was the word used to describe how those disciples felt. Mark provided the cost of the ointment used. Murmuring among the disciples was recorded.
Mark 14:3: And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
Mark 14:4: And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
Mark 14:5: For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
These disciples had been travelling with the Lord all over Israel for over three years helping the poor in many ways healing and feeding them without cost. So helping the poor was the norm and expected of them.
However, is helping the poor the reason why the Lord came into this world? They all recognized the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and their King. The Lord’s mission was not solely just to help the poor but for a much greater mission where even the disciples expected Him to restore the Kingdom to Israel.
Even before that happening, some of them were already jostling for position of eminence and power not too long ago when the mother of two of the disciples approached the Lord to secure her sons future in the coming kingdom.
Matthew 20:20: Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
Matthew 20:21: And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
Matthew 20:24: And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
Of course such request was met with indignation from the other ten disciples, the same feelings they felt about the anointing of the Lord by this woman who seemingly according to their opinion was a waste of resources.
How humiliating for the Lord to receive such treatment from His close disciples! How could they so hardheartedly equate the Lord Jesus Christ with the masses of the poor! Were they blind? No doubt, spiritually speaking.
There is certainly no lack of politicking among the disciples. They were even audacious enough to ask the Lord who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven some time back.
Matthew 18:1: At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Their ambition for ascendancy in the coming kingdom is clearly exhibited during the Lord’s ministry on earth. So when this incident concerning the woman who anointed the Lord with costly ointment, it was another convenient moment for them to rant and score points.
It was truly unfortunate they became so familiar with the Lord being with Him all the while ministering to great and small reducing the Lord to be among their equal.
Just before the incident, the Lord reminded them He would be betrayed and crucified.
Matthew 26:1: And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
Matthew 26:2: Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Sad to say, the disciples had been reminded countless times but apparently such bad news didn’t sink in and fell on deaf ears. All they could imagine before them was the coming kingdom and their glorious future.
Helping the poor may seem to them the way to achieve this end. They had the people with them and the religious authorities stood helpless in the face of the Lord’s impeccable ministry in which they had no answer.
The kingdom was within reach with the masses of the poor supporting them pushing them forward. They couldn’t imagine the Lord’s admonition regarding His betrayal and even some time back, Peter rebuked the Lord for making such pessimistic and inauspicious claims.
Matthew 16:21: From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Matthew 16:22: Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
The betrayal was real and imminent but they disregarded it. Interestingly, the modern perverse bibles also didn’t believe the Lord would be betrayed either. They recorded the Lord would be handed over to be crucified as though He was a criminal. How wicked!
“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (NIV)
“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”(NASB)
“You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” (NKJV)
After so many occasions of constant reminders from the Lord, even just before this incident, the disciples were not sober. There was no record of them feeling anxious and sad concerning the imminent betrayal of the Lord and His death. They just didn’t get it. But this woman here did to the glory of God.
Matthew 26:10: When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
Matthew 26:11: For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
Matthew 26:12: For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
All these disciples claimed to believe the Lord Jesus was their Messiah and King and the promise of the coming kingdom. With the Lord before them, they miniaturized Him. Doesn’t the Lord deserve this honour to be anointed before His death and burial? Can anyone quantify a price on His impending funeral?
How the Lord justified this woman’s deed making a statement regarding the poor is tantamount to political suicide for those intending to use the poor for their political ends. There will be no ends to helping the poor. Poverty would not be eradicated and politicians should stop their hypocrisy of using the poor to justify their right to rule as though they could do a better job.
Does not the Lord care for the poor and needy? Certainly! He gave them the scriptures in the Old Testament on how to treat and help the poor and downtrodden. Why after centuries of practicing the Law of Moses, many Jews still remained poor?
First and foremost, helping the poor has been institutionalized in the economic master plan for the State of Israel. Every Jew is a freehold land owner. Even when a Jew falls into hardship and loses his land, it is only temporal. He could return to his own land in the Jubilee.
Leviticus 25:9: Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
Leviticus 25:10: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
Leviticus 25:13: In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
Leviticus 27:24: In the year of the jubile the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land did belong.
So no Jews would continue to remain poor forever and the rich become richer and richer.
Furthermore, the Jews were required by law to assist the poor during the harvest to ensure those poor and needy won’t go hungry.
Leviticus 19:9: And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
Leviticus 19:10: And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 24:19: When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.
We see such charity in practice when Ruth received handfuls on purpose for her sustenance during the harvest.
Ruth 2:16: And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.
Such institutionalized measures to help the poor are not strictly enforced but rather operate on a spirit of free will. After all, how much harvest is to be left behind for the poor is determined by the owners according to the good nature of their heart and conscience. Even when the State of Israel has laws to protect the poor, poverty will not be eradicated.
Deuteronomy 15:4: Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
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.
This is the sad state of living in the sin cursed fallen world. Poverty is a present reality. No matter how much one does, poverty will still be there to plague the world ever since God cursed the ground on earth after Adam’s fall.
Had they known the scriptures, these disciples would realise helping the poor is not an end in itself. With the Lord before them awaiting for the impending betrayal and crucifixion, it is really sad the disciples failed to give the Lord honour and glory like what this woman did. In fact, soon after this incident, the Lord’s betrayal was set in motion.
Matthew 26:14: Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
Matthew 26:15: And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:16: And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
So in general politicians being politicians, helping the poor is just a convenient means to an end. They can sell out anyone anytime for personal gain. They can easily be exposed to be thieves just like Judas Iscariot who went beyond indignation for wasting precious ointment on the Lord Jesus Christ. In his estimation, the Lord was nothing but a means for him to associate with for position and power in the coming kingdom.
John 12:2: There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
John 12:3: Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
John 12:4: Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
John 12:5: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
John 12:6: This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
What is more dangerous is when politicians use religions to propel them forward and upward to the corridors of power. Not only Judas Iscariot was indignant, even other disciples were found wanting failing to appreciate what this woman Mary did for the Lord. It is shameful they could even feel upset when they failed to acknowledge their lack of devotion and love for the Lord.
Christians could likewise fall into the same blindside thinking helping the poor is equivalent to serving the Lord and honouring Him. This does not however, in any way exempt Christians from helping the poor and needy in their midst. They have to beware of those who use good work of helping the poor for their own agenda when often those involved help themselves first with the donations and whatever little is left might trickle down to those really in need.
The New Testament does exhort Christians to be charitable. The best way is to help the poor without getting noticed by the world.
Matthew 6:1: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 6:2: Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Matthew 6:3: But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
Matthew 6:4: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:5: And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
James 1:27: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
This way of doing charity will keep those with ulterior motives in the church or otherwise from making use of the poor to further their own cause. Milking the plight of the poor and needy for a political cause would become impossible for those who truly want to help the poor when recognition and rewards are taken out of the equation.
Christians giving to the poor should be private and personal rather than setting up machinery and impersonal entities to perform acts of charity. Sacrificing the spirit of free will and volunteerism on the altar of efficiency and efficacy concerning helping the poor will not bring much personal benefits to the donors.
Proverb 11:25: The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
These men who failed in their act of charity towards the Lord were not ordinary common folks on the street. They were the Lord’s close disciples walking the grounds on Israel serving with the Lord for over three years. How Mary wished to show charity to the Lord was none of their business. It wasn’t their money any way. By politicizing this incident reflects their lack of spiritual acumen and exposes their private agenda on the issue of helping the poor.
This shameful episode on the disciples lack of sacrifice and devotion for the Lord becomes a medal of honour for this woman who did what was right when all the disciples failed. Often when men fail, God uses a woman to glorify Him very much like Barak failing to heed the Lord’s calling and God raised up Deborah for this special honour.
Matthew 26:13: 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.
So when those disciples failed in their devotion for the Lord Jesus Christ, what Mary did that day was forever immortalized by her single selfless act of love and honour for her Lord and Saviour. Centuries of saints all over the world over the years now read of Mary giving her all for the King of kings and Lord of lords who is most deserving of all His creatures praises and adoration.