I just finished up listening to Finding Fred, a short-series podcast about Fred Rogers. Podcast host Carvell Wallace does a really good job of examining the spiritual impact of and what we can learn from Mr. Rogers’ life and ministry. In episode 9, I really appreciated this take on Jesus’ words in Mark 14:
In Mark 14:7, Jesus says “the poor you will always have with you, and you can help them whenever you want, but you will not always have me.” The idea is that one day Jesus would leave His followers. Like all things, he was saying, his presence was impermanent. The only permanent thing is that people will still need help, and we must continue to help those who need it. Notice he didn’t say “I’m gonna be gone so I’m gonna need you to keep on crushing all the bad guys and making sure *they* learn their lessons.” His focus is not on fixing the bad ones, but on helping the needy ones.
I’ve heard plenty of takes on this passage over my years in church, with interpretations all over the place from prioritizing Jesus’ presence to (horribly) suggesting that it’s a fruitless task to try to end poverty because Jesus said we’d always have them. But I really appreciate this particular view of what Jesus was saying. The gospel also tells us that we have help for the “bad people”, too – and we’re all in some sense “bad people” – but when it comes to how this practically applies to living out our faith in the world, caring for the poor and needy seems to be right at the forefront of Jesus’ concern.
Oh, and the whole podcast is worth a listen if you’re into that sort of thing.