I’m often amazed by believers’ reactions to Jesus’ monstrous behaviour as described in the bible. For example, look at John 12, where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet:
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Judas objects, saying that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus responds:
For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
The inadequacy of Jesus’ reply is clear: we’re not talking about some abstract notion of poverty here, we’re talking about actual people who are actually suffering and dying for want of a few pennies, while Jesus washes his feet with fancy Marks and Spencer bubble bath. The moral imperative is clear: the poor needed the money more.
If anyone else used this argument to avoid giving money to charity, they’d rightly be accused of being – literally – uncharitable. And an idiot: it’s hard to imagine a more stupid argument. Don’t give money to people who need it because it won’t stop other people needing money. Seriously?
But when Jesus says it, it is treated by believers as automatically wise and somehow benevolent. That’s how it was presented to me at school. We were supposed to nod sagely at Jesus’ response and act as though it was not only reasonable but somehow wonderful and brilliant.
No doubt theologians have found ways to explain this behaviour as some sort of parable but they can’t escape the fact that Jesus is being a bit of a shit. Why does everyone pretend he’s not? You know, I might be able to get behind a leader who said “You know what, you’re right! I’m being selfish. Next time we’ll give the money to people who need it. I’ve learned something today.” But I can’t get behind a self-indulgent child who uses terrible arguments to justify selfishness.
The next thing you know, he’ll be cursing fig trees for not having all figs on when it’s the wrong season for figs. And people will still find ways to justify it.