The Poor Will Always Be There

Daily Scripture readings for August, set #15:

Deuteronomy, chapters 1-3
Psalm 62
Matthew 26:1-16
Romans 9:13-33

As I began reading Deuteronomy during last year’s Exponential schedule, I realized immediately that I had never read it before. I’m sure there are some verses here and there that were familiar to me, but I the book as a whole was not what I thought it was. I had it pegged as another boring stats and laws (I suppose because it’s part of the Pentateuch), but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I really enjoyed reading it last year, and I’m excited to read it again this year. In my continual search to understand the biblical portrayal of God’s sovereignty over man’s actions, I noticed this in chapter 2: “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day” (vs 30). Is it fair for God to harden someone’s spirit and make his heart obstinate? Perhaps “fairness” as I might define it isn’t as high on God’s priority list as it is in 2011 American culture.

Again in Psalm 62 I find David just PREACHING to my soul. Check out the single-sentence sermon in verse 8: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

I heard Jim Wallis speak a few years ago at Bethel University, and in the Q&A time he addressed the issue of how Matthew 26:11 should affect the way a Christian views the poor. Jesus, responding to the disciples’ criticism of what they deemed a wasteful use of expensive perfume, says this: “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” This verse is usually referenced in support of the idea that poverty will never be fully solved. Wallis, in answering this perspective, suggested that the context shows that Jesus had no intention of portraying poverty as unsolvable. Rather, he tells the disciples to continue taking every opportunity to help the poor, as they had been doing. However, for the time while he was still with them, they should focus on him. In other words, Jesus was telling the disciples that they would have plenty of opportunities to come to the aid of those in need. Jesus was NOT suggesting that their efforts in serving the poor would never amount to any real progress.

A common reaction to the Romans 9 teaching that God sovereignly chooses those who will be saved is a philosophical loss of motivation for evangelism. “Well, if God just chooses people then why should I go out and preach?” Paul sees this objection coming and addresses it in chapter 10, and it’s a good reminder that the bible both calls us to action AND gives God control over the outcome. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” (vs 13-15).

Romans 9:13-33 is a very heavy passage of Scripture. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at it carefully and trying to follow Paul’s logic and argument. I encourage whoever reads this to do the same. Paul’s quote of Isaiah jumped out at me while reading it this time: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved” (vs 27). Here again Paul brings to the forefront his theme of redefining what “Israel” means, promise vs bloodline.

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One thought on “The Poor Will Always Be There”

  1. “Jesus was NOT suggesting that their efforts in serving the poor would never amount to any real progress.”

    How ironic for Wallis to make such a statement…

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