“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
My walk through the train station in India brought me back to the first century. A paralyzed beggar was slowly dragging his way down the sidewalk. I’ve seen beggars in other countries, but for me, the poverty and suffering in India stand out. Whether on city streets, or begging for a few rupees at a stop light, the crushing sense of poverty in India must mirror what Jesus encountered daily in his earthy ministry.
Jesus would not be surprised by what I saw. After all, he said shortly before his crucifixion, “The poor you will always have with you.” It’s easy for me to take those words as a reason to become callous to people in poverty. I’m tempted to look the other way simply to keep my own emotional balance.
But Jesus wasn’t defending my tendency to ignore human need. He was responding to a special act of devotion that prepared him for his coming death. His point was that this lavish gift could not always be given to himself personally. On the other hand, because of sin in this world, the poor will surround us until his coming again. Serving them is a tangible way we can serve Christ.
In the face of pressing needs, it is sometimes difficult to know the best ways to help the poor escape the cycle of poverty. But if we fail to respond and engage their needs, we will fail our Savior.
Lord, the needs of the world’s poor overwhelm us. But, beginning with the cup of cold water offered in your name, help us to pursue answers that open doors to hope. In your name, Amen.
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