John 12:8 Misinterpreted

John 12:8 is the single most misinterpreted verse in the Bible.

The verse says:

“You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ “

Now, there have been some conservative (politically) scholars who suggest that Jesus is telling us to be apathetic towards the needy and desperate, based on this passage.

Persons who prioritize the marginalized in their hermeneutics (liberationists and social justice advocates) agree with this interpretation and correlate Christ as an oppressor.

But these takes on this passage are outlandish, and ignore the Johannine Jesus’s Jewish context.

John’s Jesus frequently makes references to Deuteronomy, and this passage is not an exception.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. 8You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. 9Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’, and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. 10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. NRSV

Note that Jesus is quoting a passage about GENEROSITY. If one counts Jesus among the poor, Jesus is actually praising Mary Magdalene for her generosity, loving God with all of her heart and soul, and giving almost a years’ wages to prepare Jesus the Liberator for his victorious death on the cross.

Jesus, because his religion was Judaism, and because his Bible was the First Testament, promoted godly justice and generosity.

Truth and Peace,

0 thoughts on “John 12:8 Misinterpreted

  1. Pingback: John 12:8 Misinterpreted? | The Church of Jesus Christ

  2. Br. Clement

    “Now, there have been some conservative (politically) scholars who suggest that Jesus is telling us to be apathetic towards the needy and desperate, based on this passage.”

    Would it be possible for you to cite some of those scholars? I have been unable to find any. I’m looking to find some for an exegesis paper, so I’m not taking down straw men.

    1. RodtRDH Post author

      One such influential evangelical scholar I am referring to is Wayne Grudem:

      Please see:

      Also see online, from his notes on Christian history and economic development:

      or “Why do nations remain poor”

      He bases his whole argument on ideology, ignoring the history of empire and oppression (convenient), but then okay, charity is fine, his logic goes since some countries had an industrial revolution and others didn’t. Or others were prevented more accurately. The poor and oppressed dont matter in his theology, and historical facts aren’t important to him either.

      Another post like mine is from Dan:

      Hope this helps!

      1. Br. Clement


        If you search for John 12:8 or “the poor you will always have with you”, most of the results are people refuting this “common” interpretation.


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