Living out our Christianity can be an interesting challenge. We are called to be obedient to the Lord. We are call to be thoughtful and wise. We are called to be good stewards of what we are given. At the same time, the call upon our lives and our families is not always practical, not always sensible, not always agreeable to all.
Even on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, there was a conflict between practicality and beauty, between stewardship and symbolism. The story is pretty familiar to those who have been in church. A woman, carrying an expensive container of perfume, broke it and poured its contents over Jesus. The woman, in taking this action, made an extravagant gesture of worship toward the Savior. At the same time, that woman poured out what would be worth thousands of dollars. In some ways, it might be like dropping a year’s wages on a single act of worship.
Notice, from the passage, the different responses of Jesus and his disciples.
Matthew 26:8-10 – 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
The disciples have a response, that, I believe, would mirror our own most often. They saw what the woman gave, and they declared it to be too much. They especially thought it to be wasteful when they thought of all the other good things that could have been done with that money. They saw that the woman’s gesture was a one-time thing, something that could not be repeated and could not last. And it simply did not make any practical sense.
But, the Savior rebukes his disciples for their narrow thinking. The woman did something beautiful. Her gesture would prepare his body for its burial. Her story would be told and retold and retold throughout the ages. In so many ways, what the woman did would become the picture of devotion to Jesus, pouring out one’s treasures for the glory of the Savior.
Here we sit, nearly 21 centuries later, and we still struggle with the very conflict that the disciples had. When are we to be practical? When are we to throw caution to the wind, obey the word of God, and follow the Savior to places where it does not make sense? When do we give with no thought for the future? When must we be wise stewards who provide for the years to come?
Take this concept beyond the idea of monetary giving. What is the practical level of commitment that can be expected of any one family to the cause of Christ? How many of us, if we actually shape our lives toward the glory and honor of Christ, are thought of, even by fellow Christians, as wasting our opportunities? Is it a waste for a family to give up a larger house for the sake of the cause of Christ? Is it a waste for a family to schedule their time so that mom, dad, or children lack opportunities because of their commitment to worship? Is it a waste for a dad not to take a promotion in his company because he does not want to move to a new town and away from the solid church where he serves? Is it a waste for a mom to give up a career in order to serve the Lord by home schooling her kids? Is it a waste for the kids to give up athletics because they conflict with the family’s commitments to worship services and mission trips? Or, do such sacrifices look like the woman pouring out her perfume on the Savior?
Here is the lovely thing, I cannot tell you what perfume to pour out. But, neither should you tell me which I should not. I know that, if I have the opportunity, I would rather be like the woman giving her all to the glory of the Savior than like the disciples counting where the money could have gone. Do you give and love and serve freely? Do you risk greatly? Or, are you like the disciples who ask, “Why all this waste?”