Lenten Reader | Day 38

Waste or Worship

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Matthew 26:6-13
An old adage goes: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” That principle undergirds the whole yard sale industry. One’s perspective, a point of view, makes all the difference. Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. Value is in the eye of the user.

Our scripture today illustrates a related truth: “One person’s waste is another person’s worship.” The perfume-pouring woman and the whining disciples, probably led by Judas Iscariot, the keeper of the money box, actually agreed on a central point. The imported perfume possessed striking pecuniary value. The disagreement of the parties centered on how best to use the precious commodity.

Before evaluating these conflicting views, consider the setting of this dinner table debate. Jesus had just divulged to his disciples that the Jewish leaders were ready to hand Him over to be crucified. In fact, the chief priests and elders had gathered at the palace scheming just how to arrest and kill Jesus (vv. 3-5). The clock was ticking. Yet here at what could be termed the Next to Last Supper, the closest friends of the suffering Messiah were arguing about investments.

Mary did not ask permission but captured the moment and lavished on her Lord her beautiful, extravagant act of worship. Such extraordinary acts live on. The world remembers still. But predictably, the confused disciples lashed out indignantly and, in Judas’ case insincerely. He wanted more money in the till so he could steal it. Preacher/author Warren Wiersbe wrote, “When we give Jesus first place in our lives, we can expect to be misunderstood and criticized by those who claim to follow Him.” Jesus understood Mary.

As we await Easter, let’s not miss any chance, whether by worship attendance, prayer, study, fasting, or even giving, to heap our unreserved best upon Jesus. That would be a waste.

Dick Delong