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The Ability to Eliminate Poverty: Is It Just a Matter of Interpretation?

Eliminate poverty On Monday, I asked your thoughts on whether it’s possible for us to eliminate poverty in light of two Bible verses that address the topic differently.

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” – John 12:8 (NIV)


“However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.” – Deuteronomy 15:4 (NIV)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And as I promised, here’s a summary of what Scott shared with us at chapel.

With the first verse, Jesus speaks these words on a Tuesday night. It happens in the moment when Jesus has just been anointed, three days before He is to be executed.

Jesus is at a party in the home of Simon the leper in the town of Bethany. Lazarus and his sisters are at this party. Many people who have seen the miracles of Jesus are in attendance; many who have even received miraculous healing by His hand are present. Can you imagine the immense celebration of this party?

People who have experienced the love of Jesus, who have found comfort and strength in Him, people who left everything to make Jesus their everything are guests.

In the midst of this Mary comes into the room with very expensive perfume and anoints Jesus. A moment of worship, of adoration.

The Word even says that the whole house is filled with the smell of this fragrance.

Despite this, in John 12:4 we see Judas Iscariot object. He strongly deems Mary’s act as a waste, something that can be used for the poor.

People who did not know his character or motives may have believed he genuinely cared for the poor. But Judas is speaking to someone who knows his heart and knows the motive of his words, deeply marked by greed.

In John 12:7-8, Jesus replies with the verse that has captured our thoughts as we think about the poor. The verse that is now the most remembered about the poor.

And yet, as Scott clearly and firmly went through the scripture he pointed out that when Jesus made such a statement, he was not talking to us. His use of “you” was not intended to be directed at us. This reference, this statement, was very specifically directed at Judas.

Read it again. “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

But in Matthew 28:20b (NIV) we read, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In John 12:8 Jesus states “you will not always have me,” then in Matthew 28:20 He faithfully promises He will surely always be with us.

Some of us would write this off as a contradiction, or maybe to avoid such an accusation we do not reconcile the two verses. But it is clear that these verses are not working against each other because in John 12:4-8, we see that Jesus’ comment was directed at Judas.

Sadly, many of us know the story of Judas. His love for money allowed no room for His love of Jesus; he had chosen whom he would serve.

In Acts 4 it is revealed to us, as Scott conveyed,

“At least in one place, for one moment of time, in one community, poverty was eradicated because the people of God lived according to the plans God had given them.”

The outcome of poverty is quite different when the master chosen is the Lord. In fact, it is clearly outlined that this community of believers were of one heart and soul, having everything in common and devoted to one master, the Lord. Therefore,

Acts 4:34 (NIV), “There were no needy persons among them.”

Ok, let’s have a heart check, shall we? At this moment in chapel my jaw is slowly dropping. Scott is making connections I have never made. Showing me things I have not thought about. But truly, am I hearing what he’s saying? Poverty … gone … not among us?

Yet there is more. He continued on with some alarming statistics and, blog readers, I got ahold of these stats for you!

In 2000 the Global Community established goals for ending poverty. They are called the Millennium Development Goals. There are eight goals, and I will walk you through how some of these goals are, in fact, on target. But that’s for another day.

Today, I’d like to hear what you have to say about Scott’s interpretation of these verses.