"The poor will always be with you?" Is Jesus a hypocrite?


There is a story in the gospel of John in which Jesus tells the disciples that they will always have the poor but they will not have Jesus for much longer. 

Is Jesus saying that no matter what we do, there will always be poverty? All our efforts to eradicate poverty and bring about the Kingdom of God, all our efforts to create a living wage, all our efforts to create stability in the world are just in vain? Is it true that we will always have the poor? If so, then why try to eradicate it at all?

I would like to suggest that always having the poor is not a problem but a symptom to a greater problem. All our efforts to treat the symptom of poverty will be in vain if we are not willing or able to address the sickness of our need to scapegoat people.

When culture is looking for someone to blame for the problems in the world, it is generally the people on the margins who become our social scapegoats. For instance, when the banking crisis came, there was a lot of clamoring for the "stupid decisions" of people who "bought more house than they could afford." Never mind the bank that approved the load, no, it is the fool who bought the house. So while millions of people's homes are foreclosed on, not one banker is in jail. 

When we have problems (tension) we need a scapegoat and who better to blame and scapegoat than the poor?

We will always have the poor with us as long as we need scapegoats.

We break the addiction we have to blaming others; treat our need to have people who are "disposable"; address our human bent toward keeping systems that ensure we will have a pool of ready-made scapegoats. We address the real problem and the poor will no longer be among us.