By Russ Ramsey
Jesus said that the poor will always be among us (Mark 14:7). This means our call to make room for the poor will never expire. But as soon as we say we need to make room for the poor in our lives, we’re tempted to start drawing lines that aim to define what qualifies someone as “poor.” Do we mean a homeless person? A refugee? Someone who earns less than we do?
Wealth is a relative concept. Compared to some, I don’t have very much. Compared to others (to most of the people in this world, actually), I am a man of tremendous riches. I can turn on a faucet and drink the water that comes out. I can drive a mile or so from the home I was approved to purchase, in a car that I own, to a grocery store where I can fill my cart with all sorts of foods that have been prepared for me. Anyone who can do these things is, by the world’s standards, wealthy.
Still, sometimes I drive past houses and cars that are nicer than mine, and I wonder what it would be like to be that rich. Wealth and poverty can make people feel worlds apart from one another. But we’re really not. In God’s economy, the wealthy are much more like the poor than they are different. No one can take anything from this life into the next, and God does not show favoritism based on how much or how little a person owns. In this sense, we are all poor in spirit.
“The poor” are those who lack sufficient resources to live comfortably by the standards of their own environment. When Jesus said that we will always have the poor with us, He was referring to this world only. Paul says the same thing about material wealth. The material things we possess belong only to this life, so we dare not set our hopes on them (1 Timothy 6:17–19). Instead, we are called to make room for the poor in our lives because, materially speaking, nothing can be taken beyond the limits of this life. No one really owns anything.
So, Paul tells the wealthy not to hoard their resources, but rather to use them to do good. In fact, one of the ways we do can do good is by making room for the poor at our tables, in our budgets, and on our calendars. Scripture calls the wealthy to be generous and open-handed, ready to share. In other words, we are to use our resources as people who have the next life in view—the eternal life into which we will carry nothing except for the grace and name of Christ.
Written by Russ Ramsey