Waste or Worship?

The world calls Mary’s expenditure a waste because it carried no returns. Jesus loved her gift precisely because it didn’t. 
(from A Childlike Heart by Alan Wright)

When was the last time you did something totally selfless?

Served another without expectations of receiving anything in return?

It’s alarming how often we have built-in stipulations for doing things. Whether consciously or subconsciously, our motives are often tainted. Even if it is merely with the satisfaction of knowing we served someone without expectations.

What was Mary thinking when she approached Jesus with her jar of expensive perfume? (See John 12: 1-8.) Was she expecting to be rewarded for her lavish outpouring? Was she expecting the criticism that came from the roomful of men seated at the table with the soon-to-be-realized Savior?

Or was there really no expectation at all?

Just a gentle tugging in her spirit which caused her to waste her worship upon Jesus.

For that’s what others accused it of being. A waste. The squandering of perfectly good valuables.

In the eyes of wise money management, Mary’s outpouring was a complete and total failure. Her anointing of Jesus’ feet was akin to throwing a few thousand dollars over the edge of a cliff while surrounded by a crowd of hungry orphans. It just didn’t add up.

But then again, serving others seldom does.

If looking to live by a logical formula of 1 + 2 = 3, Christians are sure to be disappointed. Because God seldom does things according to the equations of man. His ways tend to stretch finite minds to their furthest limits and still leave us wondering how to wrap our thinking around them.

Mary’s gift could be entered as Exhibit A in the “His ways are not my own” trial. As much as I’d like to think I’d be enthralled with such a lavish outpouring of love extended to Jesus, I’m fairly certain I would have sided with Judas, becoming frustrated at what appeared to be an act so wasteful to these natural, earthly eyes.

I would have joined in labeling Mary’s expenditure a waste because it carried no returns.  But Jesus didn’t.

Jesus loved Mary’s gift because it was given without any thought of a return for her investment. Unlike the story of the widow and her sons who were directed to gather empty vessels for a filling from the Lord (2 Kings 4:1-7), Mary was not expecting her jar to be filled again. She simply emptied it at the feet of Jesus, no turning back. No restitution required.

Just the fragrant spilling of love poured freely from a heart overflowing with overwhelming gratitude for who Jesus was.

And the Lord received her act of worship. Not as a waste of treasures, but treasured because she was willing to waste her most valuable possession in worship to her Lord.

Sometimes we are called to places of significant sacrifice.

Sometimes we are prompted to release our greatest treasures into God’s keeping — without any signs of return in the natural realm.

And in those moments, we each have a choice to make.

Will we begrudge the giving of the gift?

Or will we, like Mary, surrender it freely?

Trusting to be received with God’s love and favor, even if all others fail to understand.

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