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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wasting the contents of the alabaster jar.

There is a story in the Bible (Matthew 26) where a woman pours very expensive "perfume" over Jesus. The disciples become upset with this perceived waste and comment on it to Jesus. They (disciples) ask "what is the point of this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor"(NASV) Now me being me, I pause for a moment and think about the issues with the disciples. Issues like; are they really concerned about the waste and the poor, how easy it is to want to give someone else's riches to the poor, or are they jealous they did not think of it, or issues with women, or with the act which deals with ceremony between bride and bridegroom? What ever their reasons, they became upset and let it be known. Jesus, seeing a much bigger picture responds in his routine eloquent manner. He says " Why do you bother the woman. For she has done a good deed to me. For the poor you have with you always; but you do not always have Me." Jesus basically told his disciples to sit down and shut up! He blasts them, and tells them that he will be buried soon and this is all part of the saga that is to come. I guess we can take several lessons away from this encounter. But I want to focus on the issues of the poor. Even today, we make the same basic comments about the poor. I could sell some of your stuff and give the money to the poor. Hummm.....I think I should sit down and shut up!

Now, let me state something before I continue, I have very little compassion for the poor. Why? Because I was poor. I was living off of $600 a year, homeless, living basically in a tent in the desert with no running water, no electricity. IT WAS THE RESULT OF MY CHOICES!! I did not expect anyone to sell anything to give me money. I did expect myself to get a job and earn my own keep. That said, let me tell a few stories about what we call the poor!!

Several years ago our local law enforcement officers were summonsed to a dead body call. It was a well know "bag lady." She always had a shopping cart with her and we all saw her pushing this cart around town. She would sleep where ever and did whatever. She froze to death this one winter night. She died within walking distance from several hotels. As normal, the officers had to inventory her shopping cart of junk. In it she had over $40,000 dollars!

I was waiting for a friend outside of a supermarket one afternoon. I started to watch a beggar in front of the store. He wore this old dirty coverall outfit and had a pronounced limp. I thought to myself " I should go give him some money, or take him to the Burger joint." I watched him look at his watch, which of course caused me to look at mine, it was 5:00 pm on the money. As I continued to watch this I saw him limp to the far side of the store. As he cleared the corner he was healed, his limp went away. This no doubt caught my attention. He walked up to a nice Mercedes Benz, popped the trunk and took off his coveralls exposing a nice polo and dockers. I bet me makes more money than me.

When I was in Germany I ran into a poor man begging for money. I decided to give him some money. As I held out enough money to buy a nice meal, I got this odd feeling inside. I looked this guy in the eyes and said " I need you to know this is not my money." As he was holding the other side of the bills, he paused and said "what do you mean." I said " This is God's money and you will be held accountable for what you spend it on." He let go of the money and would not take it.

A friend of mine toured India for sometime. He told me " never give any money to the beggars in India." I thought this was harsh at first. Then he explained how he saw mothers maim their children so they could get more money by begging. Giving them money only enables this horrendous act.

Every poor person I have come across, and I have come across a lot, simply needs to be held accountable for their own life. We should not get all excited to abolish poverty. There will always be poor among us, many of them choose such a life. They like their life of simplicity and want you to fund it. Yes, I am sure there are those that are at their rock bottom and need help. One's that are like I was. Giving them money will not help them. What helped me was the love and openness of a local church that allowed me to shower, fill my water bottles, and wash my clothes from time to time. They helped me be responsible for my life. I was given a beat up old car which I loved more than my new s-type Jag that I have now. If we want to help the poor, befriend them, educated them, treat them with dignity, but most of all see them. It is way too easy to give them money so they go away and do not discomfort us. That does not help them.

Feed the poor rings in the mouths of so many. It is not our job to feed them. We should raise them up so they can feed themselves. And the ones that do not want to put in the effort, so be it, leave them to their own design and take with you no guilt. It would take very little money and effort to truly help the poor, the problem is that we just do not want to be bothered with the time it takes. Just let me pay someone else to do it so I do not get dirty. Remember that guy called Jesus. He touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, and changed the unchangeable! And he did by relationships not money!

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