February 1, 2009

Don't Sweat It, Jesus said...

"The poor you will always have with you." I find it interesting to hear people say that they think Jesus meant that there will always be poor in the world. While I think there are multifarious reasons for wanting to read Jesus' words here as literally as possible: to assuage our guilt for not caring about the poor, to assuage our guilt for not helping when we could, we've been taught to read it this way, we need an excuse for poverty, etc; I still do not understand why we take these words found in Mark 14 so literally.

Jesus must have literally meant these words (which are not even a commandment, but a quote from Deuteronomy), but there is no way he could have meant literally that we sell our possessions to follow him, or to turn the other cheek, give up your cloak, or love your enemy.

Actually, what Jesus is referring to here in Mark 14 is that the law requires an open handed disposition toward the poor, so he was turning the hypocritical concern of the disciples for the poor on its head. If you must take something away from this passage and apply in so woodenly and literally don't let it be to assuage your or my affluence. What God desires is that his people must give to and care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Part of the solution might be flipping the above dilemma, switching the literal reading of Jesus' words in Mark 14 with the many commands that Jesus "could not have literally meant." Love your enemy, bless those who curse you, give away your possessions to the poor, and pick up your cross."

Of all the things Jesus said to take literally...

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