“Why this waste?”

25 06 2014

As a man, the head of a family, a wage-earner, a pastor, I am constantly having to redress the balance of things. In my own life, and for the sake of others. My desire would be that I and we really catch God’s passion for those who live on the margins, the forgotten ones in our society, the messed up, the broken, the poor, the downtrodden, the misunderstood, the people who desperately need a second or fifty second chance; the ones of whom Jesus said, if we engage with them and meet their needs, we do it to Him. Our attitude to such people is a huge challenge to our lifestyles, but it is what the Kingdom of God is about. My wife and I constantly face this battle and try to redress the balance in our own lives for the sake of others less fortunate. There are a number of creative ways to do this, which I may look at in another blog.

But there is an incident involving Jesus in John chapter 12 in which he seems to contradict the importance of Christian charity. Jesus is at his friend’s place in Bethany, and one of the sisters, Mary, is not helping. She is not engaged with serving, preparations, clearing plates. She is transfixed by Jesus. She slips away, fetches the most previous thing she has – her financial security, which was a vial of expensive perfume – and does something extraordinary. In full view of everyone. She pours it over Jesus’ feet, and massages them with her hair.

There is so much in this story regarding this as a prophetic act, and also regarding the nature of true worship. But at the time, it was seen as a waste.
“Why this waste?” Says Judas. “This was worth a years’ wages, and could have been given to the poor!”

Yes, it could have. That would have been the “Christian thing to do”, surely?
Doesn’t God want us to reach out with his compassion and with the resource we have to bind up wounds and set captives free?

Jesus’ response is defensive of Mary. “Leave her alone! She did this in preparation for my burial. The poor you will always have among you, but you will not always have me.”

For that moment in time, it was fitting for Mary to do what she did. But the disciples thought it was a scandal that Jesus defended luxury over justice and compassion. What Mary did exposed their hearts.

There are not many things which are as precious to God as helping those who are poor and oppressed. But He makes Jesus pre-eminent. Mary made Jesus pre-eminent. Jesus is more important than any ministry, no matter how noble and God-ordained. Those ministries are not to be worshipped. They need to flow out of extravagant worship of the the pre-eminent Jesus. We can easily slip into idolising anything, including family, justice, health, helping the disadvantaged, fellowship, even worship itself! But only Jesus is to be central. Everything else is to Him and for Him.

So, there can be no waste in worship. To waste is to give more than necessary. It is impossible for you and I today, or this week, to give more devotion than necessary to Jesus. “Why this waste?” If we can see Jesus’ true worth to us, we will gladly and extravagantly waste ourselves on Him.

This is our priority as His rescued children; to recklessly give to Him first. And in doing so, I believe we will naturally find ourselves giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, binding up broken hearts and setting captives free – doing all the things that Jesus would do. As we do them, those whose lives we touch will pick up the aroma of Christ on us. The most important need anyone has is to become a true worshipper. We can introduce people to that life with Jesus if we are willing to be extravagant worshippers ourselves.

The perfume, the worship, is not wasted.