The poor you will always have with you

“but you will not always have me” is the last part of that phrase. The first part of that phrase is the one everyone quotes. It is at best used as excuse not to share money, goods, or services with people and at worst as a club to make sure people down on their luck stay there. This phrase is often used out of context. This is part of the story when a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. The apostles, knowing their scripture, are aware that Deuteronomy 15:1-11 states “there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land” and are offended that Jesus seems to be condoning wastefulness. Of course, Jesus is doing no such thing. Jesus reminds them that in this broken world there will always be opportunities to help those in need. Jesus and this woman understand that he will soon be crucified and her actions are actually preparing him for burial.

Why am I talking about this. Those two passages alone are commands for God’s people to help those in need, but there are many more. Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 24 tell us not reap our fields to the edges, but leave them for those who don’t have land to plant so they can also eat. In Acts 2 and Acts 4, the believers are sharing all their possessions for those who had need. Psalms and Proverbs both refer to helping the poor multiple times. Mark 10 has Jesus telling the rich, young ruler to sell all he has and give it to the poor so that he will have treasure in heaven. 2 Corinthians 9 tells us that if we are generous to others, it will produce thanksgiving to God from those receiving. James 2 says that we are to give to the poor because it does no good to just offer up thoughts and prayers when you have change in your pocket. I have barely mentioned any passages compared to the number that exist.

Why am I talking about this today. Well, I suppose it’s because I am very angry at the Indiana General Assembly. Indiana republicans enjoy a super majority in both the House and Senate chambers. They also hold the Governor’s office, so there is no real threat to them at any level. Almost every member of this body claims in some part to be a Christian, yet they continually introduce and vote for legislation that hurts poor people. Proposed legislation that may help the poor or disenfranchised doesn’t even receive a hearing. This angers me in a way that I can’t even explain well. I am incredibly angry at my own State Representative who seems to be leading the charge. In fact, he is the author of the bill that is currently the hot topic at the statehouse as it is being heard right now. This bill would effectively end funding for the rapid transit lines for our bus lines. In 2016, the residents of Marion County voted for an increase in taxes to create at least three new rapid transit lines with dedicated bus lanes. The first of those rapid transit lanes from the north side to downtown to the south side were completed a year ago. The city and IndyGo had already proposed another rapid line that would run from east to west. My rep, who seems disappointed to be in the minority of county voters, has decided to use his state level position to stop this from happening. As the north/south bus line has proven popular and helps get people downtown to jobs and for entertainment, the east/west route would help even more people. Just as a side note: the north side has more wealthy neighborhoods than the east or west side. I am sure that has nothing to do with this. This legislation would not only jeopardize the creation of the new lines, but it jeopardizes federal funding for all public transit. If the bus system has to cut routes, personnel, or vehicles, this jeopardizes the ability for people to get to work. We all know that many low-income people don’t own reliable transportation if they own any at all. There are many people who have moved into neighborhoods that are near bus stops so that they don’t have to drive to work. This proposed legislation won’t save Indy residents any money. The federal government won’t give the money back or quit collecting our taxes. The county will still collect county taxes because the residents voted for the referendum. We know that most people who are for public transportation tend to be left leaning. So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that after 4 years of listening to a crazy, vindictive president that our state republicans would be enacting legislation that has no benefit except hurting the people they view as against them.

For more evidence of their petty, vindictiveness against all things deemed “too liberal”, republicans have introduced a bill that allows landlords to take emergency possession of their property if a tenant reports substandard conditions. This effectively allows landlords to evict tenants who complain with three days notice. They tried to further restrict mail-in ballots. They have introduced a perennial bill that moves education funding from public schools to private schools. At some point, they will stop writing and passing these bills because there won’t be any more going to public schools.

Each of these bills does one thing, it hurts the poor. The representatives who author and vote on these bill also enjoy angering anyone on the other side of the aisle. It seems as if they don’t care who gets hurt in their relentless attack on anything resembling liberalism. Our government has continually cut anything that might be considered part of the welfare state. It has asked people who are collecting government assistance to work for a certain set of hours. It asks those who are disabled and those with disabled children to prove that they are still disabled every six months. It demands a lot more from individuals than corporations who receive government funds. I don’t understand how the government can make demand that people work, while also taking away their only means of transportation. We say that we want each person to receive an good enough education so that they can go on to take care of themselves and be a productive member of society, but we want to cut school funding and keep teacher wages low. We blame families for moving their kids from school to school, but make it hard for them to report bad landlords. We allow predatory lenders to operate freely and hold people in perpetual indenture.It’s a pretty sad state of affairs for people who claim to read their Bibles. Galatians 2:10 asks us to think about the poor if giving seems to a big a hurdle for us. I guess it should have said think about the poor instead of thinking of ways to hurt for perceived enemy.

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