Needing the Poor

People sometimes argue, drawing on a thrice-repeated New Testament story of Jesus’s last days, that poverty is an inevitable part of mortality, and that efforts to end poverty are therefore unscriptural. The New Testament incident in question is narrated in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12. In this account, a woman (identified by John as Mary of Lazarus’s household, but unnamed in the other two accounts) anoints Jesus’s feet with an expensive ointment. Some of Jesus’s followers (unidentified, once again, in Matthew — “his disciples” — and Mark — “some that had indignation within themselves” — but labeled as the traitor-to-be Judas Iscariot in John) complain that the ointment could instead have been sold to provide a great deal of money for the poor. Jesus replies, with minor variations from account to account: “For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (John 12:8).

Some have argued that this story teaches that poverty is a universal, or even divinely ordained, part of this life. Any interpretation along these lines seems to overreach, however. A first question to be asked involves the identity of Jesus’s “ye.” Did he mean the people in the room with him? Surely it has proven to be a historical fact that people of that generation spent their entire lives in a world in which many were poor. Or, was Jesus’s statement instead intended as a universal proclamation for all generations in all times and places? This interpretation has relatively little to recommend it, since Jesus’s attention in this narrative is focused on the window of time during which He was mortal — during which He was physically “with us.” So nothing in the logic of this account directly suggests that Jesus’s words should be interpreted as being directed to any but those who would actually experience both the time when Jesus was present and the time when He was absent.

Hence, treated descriptively, it seems at least plausible that this passage was only meant as a characterization of possible social and economic structures of the Near East during the first century or so A.D. Further caution still is needed in deciding to treat this passage not as mere description but as having a prescriptive dimension. Did Jesus mean to tell us that we should make sure that our social and economic systems leave people the opportunity to be poor? The burden of the anecdote seems to be that Jesus’s death is a more important component of human history than the alleviation of poverty would be. But it is beyond a stretch to conclude from this claim of relative importance that alleviating poverty would not be a good thing. Indeed, in the Mark account, Jesus’s words are phrased in a way that suggests that helping reduce poverty is in fact a good thing to do.

Furthermore, Mormon scripture provides a narrative of two different civilizations in which poverty is said to have disappeared: among the people of Enoch’s Zion, and among the people of 4 Nephi’s Christian paradise. So Mormons have good reason to resist any reading of these New Testament passages that gives poverty a status of logical necessity in mortality — let alone some kind of affirmative moral value.

Yet, while poverty may not be logically necessary, it would seem that the poor are morally needed by all of us who have enough and to spare. The scriptures repeatedly teach us that we disregard the needs of the poor at our own eternal peril. The portion of King Benjamin’s sermon reported in Mosiah 4 is a particularly clear example of this point, although it is by no means unique. In the context of the general obligation of those who have enough toward those who do not, Benjamin says:

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy. And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another. And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

Here, we see that God requires us to share because what we have truly belongs to Him, not to us. Indeed, we cannot be saved without helping the needy ones around us, for a failure to help implies a lack of gratitude for and understanding of the atonement.

Matthew 25 deepens and enriches our understanding of the ways we need the poor. In that chapter, Jesus explains that, at the judgment day, those who helped Him when He was hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, or in prison will be saved and those who did not will perish. Verse 40 cuts to the heart of the matter:

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

That is to say, when we meet someone in need, that person stands as Jesus Christ to us. We perhaps like to imagine things in reverse. We ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Yet it seems that the proper question is, “What would I do for Jesus?” It seems that the necessary answer is, “Whatever I can.” Can any lesser response be consistent with a full understanding of what Jesus has already done for us?

We, then, cannot be saved without helping the poor, because the poor stand in the place of Jesus for us. And yet a dilemma arises: we do not have the right to force our help upon someone. The fact that we have more than someone else does not mean we deserve the privilege of inserting ourselves into their lives. Such a presumption reinscribes the relations of class power that Jesus seems to call us to leave behind.

How, then, do we express our spiritual need for the poor? I have no definitive answers, but some ideas. First, it would seem wise for us all to pray for the gift of charity. If we genuinely love with the love of Christ, then we are, I think, more likely to be able to forge the kinds of relationships that make our assistance welcome, not merely needed. Second, I suppose we ought to pray for the humility to learn from the needy people we encounter. Surely, when we stand face to face with Jesus, we will seek to learn from Him at least as much as we seek to teach Him. Such would seem a good model for our relationships with those that Jesus has described as standing in His place for us here on Earth.

In a world like ours — one of material wealth, to be sure, but also a place rich in poverty, disease, inequity, and untimely death — I think it may fairly be said that the millions and billions of the desperately poor need those of us who have enough to help ensure their mortal survival. Thus, it seems only fair that we, the people rich enough never to have to miss a meal, should need the poor to achieve eternal life. I wonder how the world will look when we fully realize that we need them even more than they need us?


  1. StillConfused says:

    Okay, here is my situation. I made one of those off-handed-don’t-expect-you-to-take-me-up-on-it offers. To explain, a man I knew online (oh yes, start cringing) states that he is coming to Utah. Naively thinking it is for a visit, I say, oh great, swing by. Well, what I did not know is that this man is an unemployed father of two who has nothing but a crappy car and the few items in it. He doesn’t pay child support. He says he is here to find a job and a wife (to have more kids I guess).

    My attitude at first is “Are you joking me?” This is a grown man trying to sponge off my kindness. A man is his thirties with no job, no money, no retirement plan, no formal education.

    But yesterday I got to wondering, am I supposed to do something here? Am I supposed to teach this man what I assumed all men knew — how to work and provide for your family? I run a charity for women where I teach education. This may be sexist of me, but I never really stopped to think that there may be grown men who don’t try to provide for their children.

    What are your thoughts? Try to teach or send him on his way?

  2. This is why I vote Democrat, then I am free of all this thoughts

  3. these thoughts

  4. Wonderful post, JNS. I’m headed into FHE and can’t comment further now, but the questions you ask are core, imo, to the heart of the Gospel.

    “Jesus Before Christianity” by Albert Nolan has a chapter on the theology of poverty during the time of Jesus that is excellent – as is the entire book. I would recommend it highly. It had a tremendous impact on me as a college student raised in poverty but being educated amid incredible wealth.

  5. JNS,

    I think it’s key to note that the reason why there were no poor in Enoch’s Zion, or the paradise of 4th Nephi, is precisely because of the charity of the members. Normal social structures and ideologies appears to create economic stratification, and the resulting gap between the rick and the poor. These two societies overcame that because the poor were exalted and the rich humbled, which is a description of the rich and the middle class giving to sustain the poor, even to the extent that they were no longer rich.

    StillConfused, you have an obligation only to the extent that you don’t endanger or compromise your safety or security. Look at what you can do, which is to teach, but perhaps the lesson is “you weren’t honest with me, so I don’t know how I can help you”. And yes, there are grown men that don’t provide for their own families, unfortunately.

    Sometimes, the help can be of a surprising nature. I recall sitting in a ward council, discussing the plight of a couple facing deportation to a bad situation in Eastern Europe after their application for political asylum was rejected. I should note that they had been taken by a truly nasty lawyer, since disbarred, who had taken their money and not made the appropriate filings or shown up in court on the required days. We could not pay the $10,000 in legal fees that they needed for an additional appeal, we couldn’t encourage them to go into hiding or help them flee to Canada. What we did find we could do, is get them, as recent converts of about two years, to the temple before their deportation date. Once we decided what we could really do, the pieces fell together fairly quickly, and they got their endowments. Shortly after that, an attorney picked up their case pro bono, and got the INS, in accord with the US Court of Appeals, to stay the deportation, and work out a compromise that allowed them to remain in the country.

  6. ohmyheck, “Rich and Poor”, not “rick and poor”. Sounds like a law firm, or some angst-ridden singer songwriter duo.

  7. Aaron Brown says:


    Fascinating comment. Please elaborate.

    Aaron B

  8. Brad Kramer says:

    I actually see this particular passage as central to Jesus’ Messianic practice and His teachings about the Kingdom of God. There are overlaps between my reading of this and related passages and Ronan’s post on the Kingdom of God as a kingdom of outcasts–of nobodies. Ronan relies on J. D. Crossan for his reading, while mine is heavily influenced by Fernando Belo’s sustained, pulverized meditations on the Markan narrative (A Materialist Reading of the Gospel of Mark).

    Here’s the gist:

    The anointing scene in which the questions of money and the poor arise (both introduced by Judas), is connected with the miraculous feedings and with the passover meal/Last Supper. Throughout the entirety of the narrative, Jesus’ body is depicted as the chief source of power in His ministry–a ministry which consists primarily in moving people from a condition of cursedness to a condition of blessedness. The not-of-this-world-ness of His messianic practice consists in His ability to effect the transfer independent of existing structures and instruments of power in society. Not an apolitical agenda but a program for sociopolitical change that eschews traditional mechanisms for such changes.

    The best example–the example that will ultimately lead to Peter’s recognition and exclamation of Jesus’ Messiahship–is the miraculous feedings of the thousands, which all the gospel writers, including the non-synoptic John, link thematically and structurally with the passover feast. In Mark, the poverty of Jesus’ disciples, numbering in the thousands, is underscored by their hunger and lack of means. The disciples suggest, if only to dismiss, the possibility of pooling cash, going to the nearest town, and buying food for all. Jesus proposes a solution that sets aside entirely the utility of money and removes economic institutions (as traditionally understood and pervasive in society) from the equation. The disciples are to take what means they have, calculated not in terms of exchange value but use value (to turn a Marxist phrase), and share it among all present. The power of Jesus’ body is the catalyst that makes this peculiar transaction possible. He “takes” what is already had, “blesses” it, “breaks” it, and “gives” it to all, and what seemed insufficient is miraculously made sufficient through the process. This sharing of food with any and all, a sharing only of what is had, an operation outside of the exchange structures of the cities (which Jesus avoids categorically), is centrally ingredient to Messianic practice, and the power of Jesus’ body makes it possible. It is powerfully subversive to the existing order, but not in the dangerous, unimaginative manner of the violent resistance movements. Crossan calls is “open commensality,” and most NT scholars acknowledge its significance to what Jesus and His followers understand as the Kingdom of God.

    In the anointing scene, Jesus’ body is linked by metonymy with the poor. Judas re-introduces money into the circle of discipleship, demonstrating his inability to conceive of a messiah as acting outside of existing frameworks of political power. The messiah he seeks–indeed, that most of the Judaean countryside awaits longingly–will seize political power from Roman occupiers and their collaborators in Jerusalem by leading a rebel army against foreign forces in the venerated manner of King David and canceling debt throughout the land. Structures of power will remain unchanged, but the position of various actors within those structures will be radically reconfigured. Judas cannot think outside of existing systems of power and is enamored by them. He ridicules an act that seems to fly in the face of rational cost-benefit analysis. Because he cannot disentangle money and power, the kingdom and the world, his critique of the anointing frames Jesus’ body as both an equivalent and an opposition to the poor: means that could be used to help the poor cannot because they are wasted on Jesus’ body; they can be used for one or the other, but not for both. Jesus confirms the link by reminding the disciples that His body will soon be absent, but the poor will remain. (This link is extended further in Matthew’s gospel by the parable of the sheep and the goats, where service to the poor and outcast is formally and substantively equated with serving Him, “inasmuch as you have done it…”).

    During the passover meal, Jesus again engages the disciples in messianic practice, “taking” the bread, “blessing” it, “breaking” it, and “giving” it to all present. Judas’ reintroduction of money now over-determines his treacherous betrayal of the Messiah, for a substantial sum of money, more than capable of making up for the humanitarian funds wasted on Jesus’ body. Jesus teaches the apostles that the practice of sharing food, of sharing what one has and relying upon the miraculous, abundant, multiplying economy of the Kingdom, will replace His body (taken, broken) as a source of Messianic power, “This is my body.”

    I know that’s all a complex mess (I should take lessons from Julie S. on concise exegesis), but I think it’s clear that the gospel writers, in particular the author of Mark, understands the relationship of serving and aiding the poor, of turning them from a cursed (hunger) to a blessed (filled) state, in terms that preclude reading this particular episode in isolation from the rest of Jesus’ ministry as set down in the narrative.

  9. #8:Brad,
    Am I on the right path in thinking this is part of “Liberation Theology”? Or, am I in over my head?

  10. Brad, how about the beatitudes, where poverty and lack are extolled as conditions of a blessed state? I know this is redundant, but I highly recommend Nolan’s “Jesus before Christianity” on this subject. It is short and easy to read, but incredibly profound.

    As to needing the poor among us, if we look at the spiritual *and* economic ebb and flow of the Book of Mormon, it is interesting that the spiritual decline almost always starts when the people prosper economically and start to be proud of their prosperity – and the spiritual resurgence almost always begins when the people have been humbled economically and/or politically. I think this is a classic example of why we need the poor – to have someone to serve instead of just focusing on ourselves – to remind us that we all are beggars and that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

    Ironically, ultimately it is only the exercise of our agency that allows poverty to exist among us. From a pre-existent, eternal perspective, without agency, there would be no economically poor among us – just universal spiritual poverty.

  11. #7:To be truthful, It is a line/excuse I give my wife, when I close the door on some poor kid trying to sell me candy or window clearer. “I don’t have to help him, because I vote Democrat”.

  12. Brad Kramer says:

    It has important overlaps with liberation theology, but is more theoretically well-developed (I’m talking about Belo’s argument, not my own reading of the gospels here). Liberation theology coalesced around a specific historical moment and attached itself to a more or less well-defined political program.

    I definitely agree that a comprehensive textual analysis of any gospel narrative brackets many of the questions that animate Historical Jesus scholarship. One cannot properly engage those questions without making judgments about which parts of the gospels point toward something like what “really happened” during Jesus’ ministry, and which parts are interpolations from later traditions (i.e. separating Jesus from Christianity ala Nolan, et al). This is Crossan’s project. But interpolations are a major part of what helps create textual unity, and treating the narratives as well-crafted narratives in–a kind of literary-critical reading–yields important insights that the HJ project often misses. Crossan attempts to synthesize both kinds of readings, but, in his heart, he’s a historian who wants to know who Jesus “really” was, not just what the synoptic evangelists thought (or wanted others to think) about Him.

    I’m certainly not arguing, in a liberationist fashion, that Jesus’ ministry can be reduced to poverty alleviation in the materially-pragmatic sense, i.e. getting the wealthy to contribute money to buy food for the poor. For Mark’s Jesus (and, to some extent, all the synoptic Jesuses) table fellowship and filling the poor is inextricably bound up with a manifestly real, utterly other-worldly power of Jesus’ body. Jesus holds out the promise to his apostles that they can reproduce that power through practice, that the sharing of bread at an open table–outside of the economic structures that uphold and reinforce existing systems based upon exchange, property accumulation, coercion, and exploitation of the most horrifically violent kind–means recreating and sharing in the very power with which He healed and exponentially multiplied blessings, material and spiritual and everything in between.

  13. I mulled over what has been shared here. It makes for a nice analysis of existing commentary by learned scholars.But who cares what they think. Making meaning is more than the ability to reconstruct another person’s writings. I used to do that but we have to ask ourselves so what? Are really examining here the metaphysical reasoning of whether there are poor until the millennial or ways of abolishing the condition. A counter argument might be that we have poor in order to see if we really are Christian. We need to poor in order to develop Christ-like attributes. When they do not exist do we have a Zionist society through benevolent indifference or is the Spirit working so strongly in us that it is eradicated. Is it eradicated because of any conscious acts or merely through charity manifesting itself through us. Most of this is a bunch of intellectual b.s. We need to stick to what the blogger intended to discuss which is what is our moral obligation to help the por.

  14. Brad Kramer says:

    Dr. B,
    I don’t think any analysis here seeks to take away from our moral obligation to help the poor. The point of my comments is that serving the poor through table fellowship is a source off otherworldly power–the essence of priesthood.

  15. Dr. B, please let JNS determine if what has been discussed thus far addresses his intent for the post. In my eyes, “our moral obligation to help the poor” does not appear to be the main point of the post – but, again, JNS can answer that one. I see the main point as trying to come to an understanding of why it seems we need to have the poor among us – an important sub-set of which certainly is our responsibility for how we treat them.

    Go back and re-read the actual comments so far on this thread. Almost all of them, in one way or another, addressed why we need the poor, how Jesus interacted with the poor and defined poverty, and/or what our responsibility is toward the poor – to one degree or another. It has been anything but intellectual b.s.

  16. This post reminds me of one from about a year ago about how the poor are always with us, but that they are not always the same poor.

  17. JN-S,

    You are simply indispensable, and your perspective is unfailingly enlightening and necessary.

    Sometimes I get frustrated in my efforts to help people in my family and ward because their poverty seems to be intractable, at least so far. So I appreciate this thought:

    First, it would seem wise for us all to pray for the gift of charity. If we genuinely love with the love of Christ, then we are, I think, more likely to be able to forge the kinds of relationships that make our assistance welcome,

  18. JNS, thanks for the clarity and insight. Like Mark, the connection to charity and the rejection of the consescension of service.

    That is to say, when we meet someone in need, that person stands as Jesus Christ to us. We perhaps like to imagine things in reverse. We ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Yet it seems that the proper question is, “What would I do for Jesus?” It seems that the necessary answer is, “Whatever I can.” Can any lesser response be consistent with a full understanding of what Jesus has already done for us?

    This is a substantial idea that involves power and respect in an importantly different way. I plan to borrow it and use it in the near future.

  19. These are the questions I asked myself as I was reading this terrific post: Who are the poor? Why are they poor?

    Are they poor like the guy in StillConfused’s comment, because they can’t/won’t hold down a job? Are they too lazy, or too used to being able to freeload?

    Are they poor because they don’t know how to get out of poverty? Do they know how to read, do simple math, drive a car?

    Are they poor because some con artists took advantage of them in a scam? Or because all their investments went belly up when the company they put everything in did too?

    Are they poor because they have some kind of illness? This is the one that worries me. If we ever lost our medical insurance, we’d be on the street in a couple of weeks.

    Are they poor for some other reasons, like race, religion or gender? One of the major employers in my city won’t hire Mormons.

    Count me in the camp that believes we have the poor among us so we can learn to become more like Christ. How can I learn to reach outside myself and help others, if there are no others that need my help? I can’t save the world, but I can help feed one family, visit one widow, or help babysit the kids of one single mother while she’s taking a second job.

  20. You can help the poor by not talking about us like we’re not in the room!

    JK. Sort of. I don’t know that talking in the abstract helps much.

    We ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Yet it seems that the proper question is, “What would I do for Jesus?”

    That’s fantastic.

  21. Pardon me if I’m stating the obvious (sometimes, as now, the far-reaching introspection of this group humbles me) but it seems to me we need the poor, not only to become charitable & compassionate beings, but also to free ourselves from the “stuff” we hold onto. If I could conquer the love of my things, my money, myself for the benefit of others– especially those I don’t know or would naturally want to know– I’d feel the battle was won.

  22. Sorry, but I don’t like the term/idea “we need the poor”. It’s like saying we need sin, so we are able to repent.

  23. Perhaps if you look at it more like “we need adversity.”

  24. David T.,

    Do we need adversity, or do we need meaningful choices to exercise our agency? Do I choose to love my neighbor? Who is my neighbor? Am I my brother’s keeper? Am I at least my brother’s brother?

  25. #23: I don’t think this is about ME being poor!
    #24: Again, I don’t believe God made people poor so WE could learn something, or exercise our goodness toward them. (But we should).

  26. JNS–what can I do for Jesus is a lovely thought. Though I wish sometimes I also could be motivated to help them just because they’re people and not because I like Jesus. But I am not one to complain about the source of motivation, if it makes you do good things, go for it.

    I also like the idea that charity should put the giver out a little bit. That giving is not just because you have all this extra time or money or some other resource, but rather that if you put yourself out a little bit, it’s in that place that you find the resources to give (when before you didn’t think it was possible)

  27. There is a difference between ‘poor’ people and people in ‘need’. ‘Poor’ people have poor ways. Bad habits learned in their homes as they grew up. It seems to me that in this day and age (in America anyway) a person with a decent work ethic will be more than able to provide for their temporal needs. But agency exists and those poor ways have a tendency to perpetuate themselves. The poor will always be with us until ‘we’ can learn to give of more than our substance. ‘We’ will have to give of our time to help those ‘poor’ people learn better habits.

  28. JNS,

    nice post.

    “The fact that we have more than someone else does not mean we deserve the privilege of inserting ourselves into their lives.”

    Glad you found some part of poverty alleviation where you didn’t think we should impose our charity views on others :).

    More generally, I wonder if these sorts of personal sanctification arguments are why it might make sense to still spend some of our charity on the people immediately close to us, even if their need is in no way comparable to those in some other countries.

    Possibly such aid, for many people, is more amenable to helping them realize personal charity compared to just the long distance stuff.

    Otherwise, it can be hard to justify _any_ local giving compared to international giving.

  29. Bob (#25) I wasn’t suggesting it was about YOU being poor. I was thinking more, as opposed to thinking we need sin to repent, we need opportunities & challenges to step up to the plate. But I think CS Eric said it better in #24, needing meaningful choices to exercise our agency. My point stops short, however, of the thought that I’m glad there are poor so I can help them. That’s just a little too Ricky Bobby.

  30. #28: Agree..”spend some of our charity on the people immediately close to us”..there always seem enough work there.
    #27: I am not buying it, sorry. I know a lot of people who work harder/smarter than me and are poor. ( I am not poor). And for damn sure Paris Hilton doesn’t have better work habits then me!
    #29 and others: I know I am hearing this wrong, but to me it sounds like God gave us a puppy (the poor) so we could learn to take care of it. We don’t need the poor, the poor need us.

  31. JNS–I love your post!

    #2–I used to be a democrat. My extended experience as a stay-at-home mom with an underemployed husband has disillusioned me regarding government programs intended to help the poor. Observing the lives of my neighbors, I have witnessed the incredible inability of socialism to actually help people overcome poverty in any meaningful way. Additionally, dollars shrink quite a bit on their way to the poor if they pass through government first.

    #19 It certainly occurs to most of us to wonder why certain people are in such a state of need. I certainly feel more inclined to help the worthy needy than the lazy or the foolish. I find myself sharply rebuked in Mosiah 4:17. “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just.” I am then informed that I have great cause to repent. Bummer.

    #20 You can help the poor by not talking about us like we’re not in the room!
    Yes, here we are. I remember teaching a lesson in which the topic of poverty/hunger came up and one of the sisters commented that we are lucky we don’t have poverty/hunger in our community. I’ve picked up my family’s food and other family’s food at the bishop storehouse delivery site many times. I could look around the RS room and see MANY people who would be hungry regularly without the food fast offerings buy. I really love how dollars do not shrink when they travel through the church.

    I think transportation is one of the greatest unaddressed ongoing needs of most of the poor I know. A car big enough to fit the whole family. A reliable, smoggable, fuel-efficient car would make a world of difference in many people’s lives.

    Car repairs. Car insurance. These major expenses pop up and people living paycheck to paycheck can’t do it. Everything is harder without reliable transportation. Everything.

    Every now and then I have fantasies of being super wealthy and buying fleets of Metros or Civics and leasing them to the working poor with the only payment being that the recipient would have to bring it in for service regularly.

    I’ve seen and heard of so much kindness and charity going on without fanfare it’s astounding. I know in our ward that a single person made up a fast offering defict that nearly equalled the rest of the ward’s offerings for the year. No names, no plaque. Just a dozen families eating every day of every month with a roof over their head every day of every month.

    The well-to-do and the poor I know give in so many ways to each other. Meals are delivered. People are visited in the hospital. Hugs. Blessings. Listening ears. Bags of hand-me-downs. Flowers. Chocolate. Help rototilling the garden. Etc. Etc.

    We will have the poor with us for at least the foreseeable future, but when we give what we can, when we can, I think we feel the Spirit. We are filled with love for each other. It makes us all better people. Rather than “we need the poor,” I’d say we need each other.


  32. “Rather than “we need the poor,” I’d say we need each other.” That, Jami, is beautiful and profound.

  33. I also like the idea that charity should put the giver out a little bit. That giving is not just because you have all this extra time or money or some other resource, but rather that if you put yourself out a little bit, it’s in that place that you find the resources to give (when before you didn’t think it was possible)

    Sacrifice is not simply skimming from the surplus. I like how you remind us of this, Amri.

    I think transportation is one of the greatest unaddressed ongoing needs of most of the poor I know.

    Even just enough money to take the bus to church can help.

    Rather than “we need the poor,” I’d say we need each other.

    Indeed, because again, ‘are we not all beggars’? Who here has never had to rely on the mercies of others for some need? I think we would all find that we are all poor in some way. We all need someone’s charity, or patience, or forgiveness, or a shoulder, or a meal, or….

  34. I’m jumping in here a little late and haven’t read all of the comments yet. I agree with the idea that we are all “beggars” in one way or another. Some needs are much more obvious than others, and perhaps it is often those obvious needs that are most easily met.

    In the quiet heart is hidden
    Sorrow that the eye can’t see.

    I don’t dismiss the many generous acts of service that are given in visible ways to the poor, but I wonder about the many unmet needs that go unnoticed because we don’t take the time to understand one another and to really care and to give of ourselves.

  35. #33

    I think transportation is one of the greatest unaddressed ongoing needs of most of the poor I know.

    Even just enough money to take the bus to church can help.

    m&m For some reason your comment has haunted me. Would just enough money to take the bus to church help?

    I have two near neighbors who are transportation impaired. I, myself, am one car repair away from joining them. So I did a little research this morning.

    What if I needed to take a bus to church with my family? (We walk the 4 miles if the issue comes to a head.) Here are my findings.

    In order to use public transportation in my town on Sunday, I would need to reserve the dial-a-ride service 24 hours in advance. $30 for the family, one way.

    No service is available early enough for seminary.

    Service to get us all there on Tuesday night would be $3.75 if just the mutual age kids and I went. For a court of honor or young women in excellence program where the entire family goes it would cost $6.75. There is no service that runs late enough to get us home.

    Getting my cub scout and I to scouts would only run us $ 2.25 and there is still bus service at 5:30 when we finish up so we could ride home for another $2.25.

    No buses run between my home and the home where activity days are held. But it’s only a half mile to walk.

    If we decided that we were on the bus often enough to justify buying monthly bus passes, we can get them for $261. Good to know that the baby rides free.

    That’s only getting us to church activities. How about groceries? How about school activities?

    Remember that all of these routes require a half a mile of walking here, a fifteen minute wait there. Additionally, there are numerous homeless, drunk, high and insane people on our buses. Even if the bus were free it would be a stressful, inadequate way to travel.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it would be anyone’s job to make it all better, but I know that if I was in this situation and someone offered me bus fare, I would not feel good about the gesture. A hug, a prayer, words of sympathy would be much better low cost ways to help.

    I repeat, I think transportation is one of the greatest unaddressed ongoing needs of most of the poor I know. Everything is harder without reliable transportation. Everything.


  36. #35: Jami, Your post made me sad: Sad that you even had to do the math. Sad to recall , as a shy boy, and only active one in my family, the time I spent ‘bumming’ rides to and from church. Sad to know the days of the old Mormon Village..are gone. My parents (12 &13 siblings),walked to school, church, everything. What would you do now with a family of 15?
    But please, let people be charitable. Let someone feel good about helping, even though I understand your feelings.

  37. Bob, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make anyone feel sad. I just wanted to show how complicated and painful the issue can be.

    I did not mean that I would be unwilling to accept bus money if I needed it. I’m sure I could. Graciously and gratefully even. But it would feel bad, knowing that the person intended well, but really had no conception of what they were suggesting entails. They wouldn’t have suggested it if they understood.

    If it makes you feel better I really am not in this situation. My neighbors are. I was when I was a child. I could be again. We all could be really.

    Thanks for the kind thoughts. Jami

  38. #37: Then I will be sad for your neighbors. I Googled “Church transportation ministry”, to see how others handle the problem. It’s worth the read. I guess the Church would have to have a commitment to active/inactive members transportation needs, like unto it’s missionary commitment to non-members conversion.