Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas is Associate Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences and Executive Director of both the Society of Christian Ethics (SCE) and the nationally acclaimed Black Religious Scholars Group (BRSG) and serves as co-founder of the Society for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Religion (SRER). The following are her edited remarks at the Wendland-Cook inaugural event on April 10, 2019:
Whenever you ask someone what they think about economics or poverty in the Bible, they go to that quoted passage: "The poor you will have with you always" (Matthew 26:11). And we recall that passage when looking at the many different stories in the New Testament of the woman who comes with her gift.
While the disciples are partying, she becomes a trespasser. In a context where she is not welcome, where her body should not be present, she takes the largesse of all she has and pours it. And the disciples – Judas, chief among them – say “what a waste.” She could use that money for those who really need it. She could use that money for the poor, to which Jesus replies, "the poor you will have with you always."
Of course, as we understand eisegesis and proof-texting; people will change the Scripture. But Jesus is harkening back to Deuteronomy 15 about the Jubilee, which shows us that true justice means that poverty is a sin.
Wherever there's true justice there is no poverty.
Jesus said “the poor you will have with you always” because Judas only looked at the money as he was trying to figure out how to steal it. And instead, with that correction, you realize that the supposed disciples – the Saints that are 'Aints – he changes it and they realize that the poor shall.... is not Judas who sells him for 30 pieces of silver, not Peter who pronounces himself as a rock yet betrays, but this woman. This woman, not made a disciple, having no poise, who takes her best to anoint Jesus.
Jesus is anointed no where else. Jesus says because of this foolishness – because of this waste of privilege – wherever the gospel is preached, it will be done in memory of her.
For your legacy as the bridge between the faith that people profess and their actual actions – and making sure there's consistency because of that – because of the fact you say we need to re-evaluate our beliefs so we can have a better witness, we need to re-align ourselves with a better heritage so we might have new insight.
The skill, the precision, and the deep solidarity of Joerg's not only scholarship but scholarly activism is not only something he does from 9 to 5 but what he does at home, evenly yoked with his wife.
We are made the better. And even in the South, even in the buckle of the Bible Belt, wherever real theological education is done, wherever true justice is done, and wherever the work of saving souls does not necessitate losing mind and losing lives in the process, wherever divine justice will be linked in social justice, at Vanderbilt we can say it's because of these two prophets that the work we do will be in memory of true saints.