The Poor You Will Have with You Always

The MAGA Cult loves eisigesis, the hell bent of leather habit of taking a single text and torturing it till it says what they want to hear. Take this conversation, for instance …

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfilment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Lk 22:35–38).

The MAGA Gun Cult has, for years, tried to turn this into a proto-Second Amendment “Stand Your Ground” command from the Lord who said…

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. (Mt 5:38–42).

No. Wrong! Bad MAGA!

The words of Jesus are quite plainly parabolic.  The sword is not the physical sword, which Jesus rebukes and warns will only lead to death by the sword, but the “sword of the Spirit”.  Jesus is preparing his disciples for his Passion, not telling them to get out there and defend themselves with violence.  Indeed, he tells Pilate that because his kingdom is not of this world, his disciples are not out there with swords.

And Peter learns the lesson.  So we very simply do not find the apostles *ever* using violence to defend themselves.  Indeed, Peter, writing to a Church undergoing (literally) fiery persecution under Nero (who lit his gardens with Christians and will kill both Peter and Paul) says not one word about self-defense or defense of loved ones by violence.  Not one word.  Instead he tells Christians to die well.  No.  Really:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ¶ If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? ¶ And
“If the righteous man is scarcely saved,
where will the impious and sinner appear?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator. (1 Pe 4:12–19).

Beware the Man of One Verse, whether it concerns Jesus Christ, Gunslinger or Jesus Christ, Libertarian

So, for instance, we find this utterly typical MAGA Catholic attempt to pronounce a divine blessing on greed and radical wealth inequality

No. Bad Libertarian! Wrong! Here’s the actual story:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (Jn 12:1–8).

In the MAGA telling of this, all Christians trying to relieve the sufferings of the poor are Judas Iscariot, Radical Socialist Utopian trying to rob Hard-Working Americans to give to the shiftless, worthless poor. Jesus sees through this fake compassion and makes sure the poor are kept in their place and Good White MAGA Christians get to keep their stuff. Anybody who says a word about ending poverty is practically antichrist, including the Pope. We need to return to the pre-Vatican II Church and abandon this Commie Pope.

Behold! The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia!

The abolition of all poverty which is not due to individual fault, congenital defect, or unusual misfortune is one of the ideals of contemporary philanthropy and social reform. It is a noble aim, and it ought not to be impossible of realization. Against it are sometimes quoted the words of Christ: “The poor you have always with you”; but this sentence is in the present tense, and it was obviously addressed to the Disciples, not to the whole world. Until the words have been authoritatively given a universal application, the repetition of them as an explanation of current poverty, or as an argument against the abolition of poverty, will be neither convincing nor edifying.

Jesus is, in fact, alluding to the Old Testament here and citing a text whose conclusion is the dead opposite of the Libertarian “Poor people! Whaddayagonnadoo? Trying to help them is utopian socialism!” line of bull:

“If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and it be sin in you. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land. (Dt 15:7–11).

The response of the Christian to chronic evil is not “Give up! Only a utopian socialist tries to defeat evil!” It is to redouble his or her efforts. Francis is calling us to redouble our efforts to help the poor. The Libertarian urges us to give up and call the Holy Father a heretic for saying what God says: “Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land.”

The gospel puts the needs of the human person first. The Libertarian MAGA cultist puts My Stuff first and looks for ways to avoid responding to the gospel, including calling the gospel heresy and the Holy Father a heretic.


4 Responses

  1. Interesting. When considering how J 12, 1–8 pertains to us today, I always took it as a text that does not even concern welfare, but as an example to always put God first and that spending earthly riches on, e.g., opulent sacral architecture and art is a noble pursuit.

    1. I’ve always took it the same way, and it has become a popular scriptural reference amongst more traditional Catholics specifically because of that interpretation.

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