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Footprints daily reflection: 6 April

You will always have the poor among you. 

Author: Michael Briggs

Journey through Lent with Christian Aid's series of reflections called Footprints

Bible reading

John 12:1-11

You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

- John 12:8.


Jesus is in Bethany with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha is serving (typical!) when Mary takes some expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus' feet. The whole house begins to smell like a Lush shop.

Then Judas speaks up “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Of course, Judas the accountant has money on his mind.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replies. “…You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

“You will always have the poor among you”

It’s a strange thing for Jesus to say. I mean this is the same guy who said things like:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.’

‘When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind’

‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’

Immediately, we can tell that Jesus did not say ‘who cares? The poor will always be here, there is nothing that we can do’. Why? Because it does not fit with everything else we know about Jesus.

So, what was he saying?

Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy. And you can’t understand what he said – or what his disciples heard him saying — unless you understand what it is he was quoting.

The passage Jesus was quoting is an ‘if … then’ statement.

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. (Deut. 15:11)

Jesus only quotes the ‘if’ part because he didn’t need to quote the ‘then’ bit — he knew that his disciples knew the rest of that verse: therefore I command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.

That is what “The poor will always be with you” means in the Bible. In Deuteronomy, and in Matthew, Mark and John. It means we are commanded to open our hands to the poor and needy.



Father God,

We seek your kingdom to come on earth.

We seek an end to poverty, because we know it is not your way.

We realise that our prayers are not just to be said and forgotten.

Our prayers are to be lived into.

We ask for your help.

Give us wisdom and courage as that we may live lives that benefit the poor.

Reflecting the ways of your son, Jesus Christ.

Help us to not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted.

To not show ill will toward the needy.

To give generously and do so without a grudging heart.

To be open-handed toward the poor and needy.



Michael works in Christian Aid Ireland as a Church and Supporter Engagement Officer. He also co-leads a Methodist Church Plant in Blackrock, Dublin called Ignite. Married with one child, he lives in Bray, Wicklow.

Published on 06 April 2020

Resource language
  • Global
Themes – Areas of work
  • Lent
  • Theology