This week the Australian government announced its annual budget.
With much fanfare, they have announced a spending spree. The government coffers are sloshing with money, and so there’s an income tax cut for everyone: for about 90% of workers, it means $10 a week – almost enough to pay the big increases in petrol prices. For the top 5% of workers, well they will just have to cope with an extra $100 a week.
The roaring profits of corporations dealing in minerals and oil is the main reason: China is going gang-busters, and so companies digging up and selling these commodities are doing fabulously, paying their taxes and we all benefit.
No one wants to know what will happen to it all the day commodity prices go south.
The government is obviously expecting that some one else will have to deal with that. (Do they really mean to imply that one day they will finally lose office? Or just that these individuals will have taken their pensions and gone to their rewards?)
BUT, what has driven me to write is the astonishment of finding, both in the budget presentation, and the comprehensive reports in the papers, and the reasonably hopeful response tonight by the Leader of the Opposition, not a single word about foreign aid.
There had been a suggestion that they would at last double our nation’s paltry effort,taking just a first, pathetic but nonetheless real step towards the millenium goals.
Not a single word. Not a whimper. Not a mention.
Now we know that our Federal Treasurer had a good upbringing in a Baptist Sunday School, and indeed attended a Baptist Grammar School.
Was it there that he learned the words of Jesus, in Mark 14, 7 ‘For you always have the poor with you’.
A woman admirer of Jesus had just lavished upon him a very expensive jar of perfumed ointment. The passage gives the sense that this was something like a life’s savings.
Judas declares: What a waste! This could have been sold, and the money given to the poor.
But Jesus says that they should leave her alone, ‘the poor you have with you always, but you will not always have me.’
Is this a biblical justification for saying: There are always going to be poor people, always going to be more you could have done for them. Sometimes you just have to let it rest, and have a good time? In other words, spend it on yourself!
I fear that this is exactly what we have done.
God forgive us, when such small amounts of money could save the lives of millions of children born with Aids; when so little can provide clean water for a whole village, when my tax cut alone could put a child through high school.
What has happened to us? When and how did we become so selfish?
Not one journalist, not one media commentator has said a word about the self-centredness of it all.
Jesus’ words suggest that we must not always be so calculating as Judas: sometimes it is indeed appropriate to be lavish. But it is not lavishness on ourselves: it is the outpouring of generosity, of love, of gratitude.
More than that, Judas shows that in fact he knows nothing about ‘the poor’. For indeed they are the most generous people in the world. They understand. ‘The poor you have with you always’, is in fact a blessing: for it is they who will teach us to be grateful and perhaps even to share a bit.