Matthew 26.6-13 – Loving in the here and now
Posted: 20 July 2010 in Matthew

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

In this passage Jesus reminds his disciples that not everything in life can be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis, nor to any other form of crass pragmatism. Such an attitude is especially inappropriate in the presence of God, to whom we can offer nothing except our worship and adoration (cf Mary & Martha).

Even worse, the disciples appeared to be devaluing Jesus, the flesh and blood person they had there in front of them, in favour of some hazy concept such as “the poor”. Abstract concepts such as “the poor” make no demands upon us, unlike real people, and they are easy to manipulate (consciously or unconsciously) for our own ends. Coupled to the fact of original sin, that is why every movement which sets out to create heaven on earth creates hell on earth instead.

It is also why the two great commandments are about loving in the concrete, and in the here and now – not about creating the future paradise which only God can bring about.

It is inevitable, I suppose, that government sponsored welfare systems will reduce people to numbers, but it is an evil, and one which wouldn’t be necessary if we all observed the two great commandments.

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