Perfume, Tears and Cold Hard Cash

Photo by Tara Winstead on

The first I sat at an “Elder’s board” (church board) I was 23. Hardly the appropriate age. So I dug into the Scripture and found that the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus spoke pretty directly to my situation. Paul is writing young pastors, to encourage them to hold fast to the significant matters of the faith. At the end of his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs him on how to deal with people who are trying to make church as commercial enterprise, one that will benefit them. Two verses that have always stuck with me in describing these people in Timothy’s church (and not my own thankfully) were these:

“…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

1 Timothy 6: 5 & 6

Paul knew what to do this these people. It was not a new problem to the church. In fact, existed before the church, when the “proto-church” was just 12 guys being mentored by a travelling Rabbi. But here is Jesus’ comment on the scene, when His feet are being washed with expensive perfume and Judas objects:

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, 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 26:10-13

This woman is likely Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, all good friends of Jesus. So it is not the first time she has wept in Jesus’ presence, which might explain His lack of discomfort. But the disciples, or at least Judas, are unsettled for Him.

But Mary has picked up something that even has Peter missed. Jesus must die. Tears and memorial offerings are fitting for a man about to be unjustly executed. So Jesus pronounces that the fame of her act will not die with the day and both Matthew and Mark make good on the statement.

Peter’s response to Jesus death is rational. “Jesus, you are going to be King. How can you die now?” Mary’s response to Jesus death is emotional, the grief of the loss of this wonderful Man cuts deeply. Judas’ response, greed–pure and simple.

Does the death of Jesus grieve you? Does the fact that He gave Himself up to injustice stir your soul? Are you like Mary wounded by what this Man of Men would do for you? Or are we just busy trying to make a quick buck out of it? Trying to maximize our own interest? Are we just using Jesus as a means to our own ends?

Sometimes like Peter, we are sincere, if off-base, in our efforts to get Jesus on the right track. Sometimes like Judas, we just want something for ourselves and we know it. I hope and pray by the power of the Holy Spirit that as Christians we would rather observe what Jesus is doing and so appropriate it that it even changes our emotional life.

Leader: We will be changed!

Congregation: We will be changed indeed!

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