A Journal for The Contemporary Church

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“You Always Have the Poor with You”


One evening, the evangelist Mark recounts, Jesus was eating in the house of Simon the leper when a woman came to the table and poured a flask of “very costly” nard over his head, anointing him with it. Some men sitting with him around the table, including Judas, murmured indignantly to one another “‘This ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor’” (Mark 14:5). It appears to us a legitimate question, but Jesus did not think so; he reprimanded them for their thinking. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” he said. “For you always have the poor with you and, whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me” (14:7). The woman, he insinuated, had anointed him for his coming death. It is not that pre-death anointing, however, we wish to focus on here. We wish to focus on Jesus’ statement that we will always have the poor with us, and ask ourselves and our readers what are we to do about that?