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"The poor you will always have with you..."
Stephen Morris puts Jesus' words into context and suggests how we can act on them.
Those are the words of Jesus, and a good demonstration they are of the danger of taking scripture - or indeed any other words - out of context. In isolation, Jesus’ famous statement, ‘the poor you will always have with you’, can be taken to imply, ‘so there’s nothing you can do about it, get over it and stop worrying’.
Often Jesus’ most famous and powerful words are when he sees something wrong in someone’s heart and is giving them the opportunity to do something about it. In this case, Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we don’t need to do anything to help the poor. In context, a woman had poured very expensive perfume over his feet, and his disciples were grumbling about the apparent waste. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor’, they pointed out.
Yes, it could. But their response, as Jesus recognised, was out of a meanness of spirit, not out of any genuine desire to help the poor. Instead Jesus had recognised the woman’s heart of worship and seen it as something wonderful that she had done.
We can worship Jesus by extravagant acts of devotion from the heart. But we should also worship him by extravagant acts to help people who are in need: he loves our genuine efforts to try to make life better for other people at our own expense. Far from despising our attempts to give to the poor, it is one of his priorities for us.
‘The poor’ can be defined in so many different ways, and perhaps ‘needy’ is a better description. We are all needy in one way or another, and our needs change throughout our lives.
Over the Christmas period we have been giving hampers to people in one sort of need or another, bringing a little blessing and hopefully comfort to people in and around our community. As we enter 2017 we would like you to see if you can help some of those in need within our own church family. That doesn’t mean we’re changing the focus to become all introspective: our love for, and desire to support, the community around us does not diminish just because we’ve delivered all our hampers!
New Covenant Trust is a separate fund we run to help out people who have got into financial difficulty. It may be for some that there has been just too much month at the end of the money, for others it may be that careful financial planning has been shot to pieces by an urgent, unexpected need to repair a car, fix a leaky roof, replace a heating boiler etc etc.
New Covenant Trust helps where the main church fund can’t, due to the complications of Gift Aid. Gift Aid helps our church finances by reclaiming the tax you’ve paid on money you give; but that does mean we can’t start giving money back to you, as you could then use the church’s finances to come up with all sorts of financial scams and tax dodges! So we run this separate fund, which is not Gift Aid-able. New Covenant Trust can help with both grants and interest-free loans: in the case of a big credit card bill for instance, we’d rather help you out with a loan than see large amounts of your money going down the drain of interest payments.
We’re relaunching New Covenant Trust in the New Year with a Gift Day on 8 January, and we’d particularly love it if you could help with a little bit (or even a big bit!) every month, as well as by one-off gifts. Please pray and see how God prompts you to respond.
‘The poor’ can indeed be any of us when hard times come along. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver, and he particularly loves it when we give to help people less fortunate than ourselves. We’ll tell you more on 8 January, but feel free to ask me or one of the elders too.
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Jubilee Church Shepperton
The Jubilee Centre, Manygate Lane, Shepperton, Middlesex, TW17 9EE
Registered Charity 1023505