Let’s Just Ignore The Poor


Poverty Social justice

Let’s Just Ignore The Poor

24 February 2010 Hits:4844

Recently Sacred Heart Mission Chief Executive Michael Perusco asked Opposition Leader Tony Abbott whether a government under his direction would continue with the Rudd government’s goal of halving homelessness by 2020. His answer was no.

In justifying his stance, Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: ”The poor will always be with us,” and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for people who choose to be homeless.

I believe that Tony Abbott is very committed to his Catholic faith, but I wonder at the wisdom of a politician quoting Scripture to reinforce reasons for political policy – especially when the Scripture quoted is obviously misunderstood and in reality, teaches the opposite truth.

Jesus’ statement, “The poor you will always have with you …” (Matthew 26:11) was spoken by him to his disciples who were questioning why Mary had just poured an entire jar of very expensive perfume on his head. This jar of ointment was worth more than a year’s wages. It was an extravagant act which some of the disciples thought was over the top. Jesus disagreed. That’s when he made the comment “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” In other words, you won’t always have the opportunity to do good to me because I’m not going to be around; but there will always be poor people whom you can help. Jesus is not teaching inaction towards the poor – he’s teaching just the opposite.

Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s gospel is a quotation from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 15:11: “There will always be poor people in the land.” Reading this verse in context reveals that the Bible is encouraging us not to be hardhearted or tightfisted toward the poor, but rather to be openhanded and freely lend whatever their needs. This passage also encourages us to give generously to the poor and do so without a grudging heart. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” This is one of over 2000 references in the Bible on the responsibility of those who have to help those who have not. The Bible teaches action to alleviate poverty, not inaction because there will always be poor people.

People become homeless for all sorts of reasons including mental illness, domestic violence and neglect. Right now there are over 100,000 homeless people in Australia – over half of these are under 25. Political posturing or misquoting the Bible won’t fix this problem. It will take a concerted effort on the part of all sides of politics along with churches, charities and social welfare organizations all working together to make a difference to those who, for various reasons, find themselves homeless, poor or underprivileged. Let’s not look for reasons to do nothing to help them!


Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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7 replies on “Let’s Just Ignore The Poor”


Well said Rob! Its interesting how often the reference Jesus made is taken out of context and not linked back to the original quote.

Kathie M. Thomassays:

I missed hearing/seeing that comment but do find it very surprising that someone in such a public position would quote something like that. Perhaps it was ‘off the cuff’ and not thought through beforehand but I’m sure he’ll be made to think about his words very carefully for a long time. There will be others who will pick up on it just as you have.

I wonder how long it will take before he actually explains what he meant or tries to justify the comment?


I also missed this comment by Tony Abbott. Here’s hoping it was an ‘off the cuff’ comment! Yes there are some people that ‘choose to be homeless’, but many have not made the choice. For many the choice was made for them due to unexpected circumstances and events. A growing number of homeless are families… mum, dad and kids. The ‘lucky ones’ often being ‘shunted’ week to week from one temporary accommodation to another. I do hope that Mr Abbott seeks the Word of God for further counsel on this matter, as the Bible is very clear about what is required of us in relation to caring for the poor.

kim de bruissays:

That is a popular quote amongst Catholics, it was circulating in my childhood.
I Think it takes quite a bit of familiarity and study of the bible to understand scripture in context and the Catholic faith is not big on personal study of the bible.

I have discovered quite a few things we quote as Pentecostal Christians to be out of context as well esp as regards evangelism.
If you are going to qualify your decisions with the weight of scripture then you need to be ready with an answer.
and God charges us believers with learning to divide the Word rightly.

As for neglecting the homeless – it is a very complex conundrum which demands a multi-agency response that doesn’t exist in our Australian welfare system. I guess it is an issue that delivers very little for politicians because it is a revolving door problem without the kind of positive ‘we fixed it!’ outcome that wins votes.

It is NOT a choice to become homeless, and it is not inevitable.
It affects the upcoming generation of youth with generational disadvantage promised to the next and is largely a product of family and governmental neglect, dysfunction and abuse.

God promises that Christ will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart (apathy/dismay?) until justice prevails throughout the earth.
That is the right response.


Tony Abbot’s comment isn’t restricted to Catholic teachings, many typical fundamentlaist churches also say the same thing. The practicalities are that hardly anybody actually practises looking after the poor like Jesus extolled us. We all want to have our cake and eat it too – we want a nice house, nice car, kids in a safe school. It all takes money. Yet how in good faith can you use that money for things like this on yourself when over 15,000 children starve to death everyday! When I see Christians actually walking like Jesus did, then I’ll take what you have say with an ounce of seriousness. Until then, too many of you are simply hypocrites trying to make yourselves feel better by the little that you do. For the record, I’m just as bad as you guys – I earn a comfortable salary, drive a nice car, have a nice house, and donate a few thousand a year to charities. That’s my little bit and I’m happy with it, but I won’t get on my high horse and claim God’s goodness is on my side or tell soemone else ‘they’ need to read scripture properly. Who’s got the plank in their eye? C’mon. Get real about Jesus or give Him up.


Ted, I actually don’t agree with what you have to say. I think there would be many NGO’s, charities and churches that would be insulted by the fact that you think “hardly anybody actually practises looking after the poor”. Tell that to the countless volunteers that give up time and money to care for the poor. I don’t think it’s wrong to put a roof over your head, purchase a car to get to A-B or educating your kids. WHat’s the alternative? Depend on the state to house you and to educate your kids? We have to work and take responsibility to fend for our families and at the same time consider the poor and help as much as possible, not ignore their plight. Feeling better for the little that you do, is better than doing nothing at all. Being uncompassionate about the plight of others is the real issue not the amount that you do. That’s the heart attitude Jesus corrected in the story of the good Samaritan. Do what you can to help others, if everyone took that approach we would be living in a different world.


Great blog Rob, totally agree.

However I was also interested in Ted’s bold opinions and the response. I think there is more truth to what Ted had said than most of us would like to believe (although my views differ a little).

Sandra, I don’t think your response has quite answered the issues raised.
I’ll break it down to brief points:

Ted’s gave his opinion that:
“hardly anybody actually practises looking after the poor”…

I think the point being made is there are a lot of churches (Evangelical, Catholic or whatever) and plenty of Christians – but are the vast majority of us Christians really ‘that radically different’ when it comes to sharing with the poor?

Yes there are certainly some varying degrees of sharing – but to me this seems to be a shadow of the level of resource-sharing and equality that appears to have been occurring in the early church (as described in Acts).

Sandra you wrote: “I don’t think it’s wrong to put a roof over your head, purchase a car to get to A-B or educating your kids. What’s the alternative?”
I think this misrepresents the real choices we are making and the real priorities we are demonstrating.

A car for getting from ‘A-B’ and a ‘roof’ is one thing. But lets not kid ourselves – when we choose to spend a further $10K, $30K or more on the car for comfort, or an extra few hundred thousand on the ‘size’ ‘location’ or ‘view’ of a house – with the knowledge that people are suffering for lack of basic food and hygiene in our global community. These are the priorities we demonstrate in action and they are choices we make with full knowlegde of the global context we live in. Are we really living the lifesyle that Jesus advocates for?

Sandra you indicated we should:
“…fend for our families and at the same time consider the poor and help as much as possible, not ignore their plight.”

If you really mean ‘as much as possible’ – this would necessitate the vast majority of Christians to live very differently (going back to Ted’s original point).

You commented:
“Being uncompassionate about the plight of others is the real issue not the amount that you do.”
I think the attitude & the action are both equally the ‘real issue’. Real compassion can’t be seperated from the practical action each person chooses to take.

ie. Bible – James 2:15-16 Suppose someone is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

The bottom line is, with some general values and principles from God to guide us, we all make a personal choice that is between us and God about how much WE CONSUME and how much WE SHARE – ie. how much we choose to ‘do without’ for the benefit of others.

It’s a challenge and a ‘choice’ that we all make in this current global community – and we need to ‘own’ it.

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