His reasoning sounded valid. Judas had just criticized Mary’s lavish gift to Jesus. The oil with which she had anointed the Lord cost nearly a year’s worth of wages for the common worker of the time. “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?” Judas demanded. “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor” (Mark 14:4,5, NKJV). Others were swayed by the argument and also became indignant. (Though Mark attributes the statement to “some” of the disciples, John shows that it was Judas who first murmured, John 12:4,5.)
The words from the betrayer’s lips came from a hypocrite’s heart. John informs us that Judas didn’t really care about the poor. He wanted the money to stay within his thieving grasp (John 12:6). But Jesus’ response is what should capture our attention: “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but me you do not have always” (Mark 14:6,7).
There are followers of Christ today who chronically object to expenditures of the church’s funds for various projects. While it is a good thing to be careful with how the Lord’s money is spent, some go too far in their caution. There is a time to spend cautiously so more work can be done in more places. There is also a time to show lavish love for the Lord. It’s a heavy responsibility placed upon those who serve the Lord to make sure the church’s treasury is managed properly.
But what about the poor? Though Judas used the needy as a guise for his greedy intentions, there yet is a real need to help them. According to Jesus, the opportunities are ever before us: “For you have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7). We can do good for them whenever we wish.
Do we wish to do good for those who are poor? Or do we attempt to justify our miserly actions by noting how some take advantage of goodhearted people? True, there are those who fraudulently prey on Christians who want to do the Lord’s will. But what about those whose needs are legitimate? Will anyone “wish” to help them? Jesus sees through our words to the real texture of our hearts. He knows the difference between being careful not to be defrauded and trying to hoard money.
Don’t overlook the fact that Jesus and the disciples kept a money box in which funds were kept (John 12:6). These funds were used at times to help those who were poor (John 13:29). Obviously, Jesus wished to help the poor. Do we who claim to imitate Jesus have the same wish?
“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17).
What is our wish as we consider the poor?