Wasted on Jesus

In Matthew 26:6-13, a woman interrupted Jesus’ visit to Simon’s home by anointing him with oil.  She took an alabaster jar ‘f “Very expensive oil” and poured it on him while he was sitting at dinner.anointing Jesus

The disciples, Jesus’ closest and dearest, most committed followers, take offense. “Why this waste?” they asked.

Wasted on Jesus.

The perfume could have been sold, they continued, and the proceeds given to the poor.

Jesus’ disciples, his closest and most committed followers, felt that this extravagant gift had been wasted on Jesus.

The disciples were all about efficiency.  They weren’t a wealthy lot, and the had quickly picked up on Jesus passion for the poor.  They couldn’t stand that this expensive perfume had been wasted. On Jesus.

Yet Jesus, rather than applauding their penny-pinching, corrects them: “Why do you make trouble for this woman? She’s done a good thing for me.”

Now, I don’t know about you or your church, but we don’t have a lot of extra money lying around here.  We have a lot of generous people here willing to give to help the less fortunate.

Like most these days, we want the money we give to be used to the best, most-efficient purposes.  Some won’t give to general budget because they want every dime of their money to go to the cause; the efficient, don’t-pay-for-the-red-tape feet-on-the-ground need.Some of us want to see the financial reports that prove we aren’t wasting money.

But what if we are wasting it on Jesus?

I think it is significant that this passage appears in the chapter after Jesus teaches that giving to the poor is giving to him:

‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

So, I believe, in giving to the poor we are giving to Jesus. But what, then, is the point of this story in Matthew 26?

Like  so much of our lives, and our issues, I believe it comes down to control.

The disciples, in the interest of efficiency, overlook the moment and the passion of the woman anointing Jesus.  They don’t grasp what is happening, or what it might mean to Jesus. And they think they can manage the moment and the gift better than the woman who is doing the giving.

Besides this being about the disciples’ concern over what someone else does, it is about their interest to control and direct resources. In this case, not even their own resources, but someone else’s.

They correctly caught that Jesus cared for the poor. But they misdiagnosed his care.  Jesus didn’t care for the poor as merely a matter of redistribution of resources.

Jesus cared for the poor out of a generous, sharing, giving heart.

Jesus knew, the Bible teaches, and modern research has proven, the power of generosity.

The woman anointing Jesus is not careful with her gift. She is lavish, extravagant, generous. Jesus is pleased and gracious in receiving her gift.

May you and I learn to model generosity more than concern for waste.

4 Fingers Pointing

Jesus’s disciples were his closest followers.

If anyone got it, they did. Sometimes they did, but sometimes they obviously didn’t.

Like in Matthew 26:8-9.  (Part of today’s reading in Euless First United Methodist Church’s GPS – Grow-Pray-Study guide)

Now when the disciples saw it they were angry and said, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor.”

What had happened to anger Jesus’ followers? A woman came to Jesus while he was sitting at dinner and poured an alabaster jar of “very expensive perfume” on his head.

Jesus’ followers can be masters of cost and efficiency, especially when they are looking at, and looking to criticize or condemn others.

You and I run the risk of being exactly the same way, whether or not we consider ourselves followers of Jesus. It is easy for us to criticize, even condemn the actions of others.

But Jesus didn’t accept the criticism.  Jesus didn’t agree that this woman was wasteful; he accepted her gift with grace and gratitude.

My parents taught me a long time ago that the danger of pointing a finger at someone else is that it leaves you with 4 fingers pointing back at yourself.

Reading this passage, I wonder if the disciples parents had taught them the same lesson.

It is so easy to point at others. Focus on their actions, deflect focus from yourself, from your own choices, failures, weaknesses, etc.

Jesus’ disciples would have been better off focusing on their own behavior rather than condemning someone else’s.

Jesus’ disciples are still better off focusing on our own behavior rather than condemning someone else.

Next time you catch yourself wanting to point out someone else’s behavior to Jesus, consider this lesson from Matthew 26:6-13.