Monday, February 11, 2008

Jesus likes my "wasted" perfume

It never ceases to amaze me how God is able to feed me exactly what I am craving. Out of 2,226 pages in my Bible, and despite being on a pre-set reading schedule, He is able to land me smack where I need to be... and hit on exactly what I am wrestling with this morning. It's so great how He rigs it!

I have been familiar with the story of Mary annointing Jesus with her costly perfume since childhood (although I still have trouble determining if it is all the same story recounted with different details in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, or if there are two similiar stories). In any account, as I began reading this morning and comparing all the different accounts, the Holy Spirit taught me very much by the different details emphasized as I compared the different gospels.

Lately I have felt much more pressure than usual to take on outside responsibilities. I have posted about this in the past and how great a temptation it is for me to take on too much and then eventually ending up in a sniveling heap on the floor unable to do much of anything. It is SO hard because in my heart I want so desperately to do most all of these things--for all of these dear people....but there are so many many MANY things! There are so many, many people! to choose? How to be a good steward? How to not show partiality and how to not feel that crushing discouragement of having to say "no" and it not going over real well even though I'm already saying "yes" to more than is about humanly possible? Hmmmm.......

Well, where is Jesus?

While Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor" And they were scolding her.
But Jesus said "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." ~Mark 14:3-9

Oh thank you thank you Lord! That's right! Even famous Mary was scolded for not pleasing people! Oh if only I had you in my living room I would run straightaway for my bottle of Eternity and let the 11 months wages just flow! But it is so hard to know when there are so many GOOD DEEDLY looking things out there!

Still needing more, I decided to read the account referenced for Matthew, Luke and John. In Matthew, a detail emerges "But the disciples were indignant when they saw this and said "Why this waste?" It's not unusual for the scoldings to come from within the church, from very well meaning and godly brothers and sisters who are presuming to determine where a woman's energies/resources should go...

In these moments we must first be very sure of our calling as Christian women to "love our husbands, to love our children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored..." ~Titus 2:4&5

This eliminates very much guess work for those of us who are married with children and it is very clear. But I have learned there is still very much more grey area to have to muddle through that don't call us to outright turn our backs on our calling, but somehow manage to squeeze their way sneekily that guy at Costco in the sample lines. Sneaky. And we are likely to (again, like the sneaky Costco guy) outwardly just graciously let him cut in to get his cookie while we inwardly fume.

And yet if we dig a little more into the Word, we see that at times it may be a little more sinister than the Costco cookie monger and we are at times called to consider the source and remain faithful to our calling by offending those who are not as sure of our calling. John 12 says that when Mary began anointing Jesus Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.

(Ah yes, the plot always thickens, doesn't it?)
Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep the custom for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me." ~John 12:4-8
In my world, I rarely come in contact with someone deliberately wanting to take with sheer selfish reasons. Yes, there is the occasional Kirby salesman, but more often it is people who love me, like me and need me for something that may be very valid. I am the one who is responsible to know how I should respond knowing that those outside of my family cannot know what God is calling us to as a family to begin with.
First of all, where IS Jesus? Do we spend time in the Word as a family seeking and praying to know what God wants us as a family doing? What does my husband say??? This is a very Big "E" on the eyechart for married women because God will lead us through our husbands. If some big thing has arisen that even whispers of taking your energy away from that prior endeavor, run from it like you would run from Judas himself. It speaks of piety but at the core it wants to "pilfer" from the will of God.

Secondly, don't get too weak kneed at the thought of the "poor", the needs. Even Jesus Himself exhorted this. The poor, the needs, the bottomless pit of activity and possibility will always be here. There is a season for it. But we must learn to discern which of the poor Jesus is directing us to. It won't call us away from Him.

As Mary ignored the scolding from the other end of the room, she was anointing the Savior of the world for burial!!! CAN YOU EVEN GET YOUR HEAD AROUND THAT?!?!??!?!

We are called to very specific things and every moment of every day requires knowing where our LORD is...what He would have us do. It is always different than the gal next to us. Martha was bringing Jesus His dinner while Mary was annointing Him.

Dear friends, whether single or married with children... whether it is your own guilt-ridden thoughts, the discouragement from the enemy, or the voices of real people, join me in rebuking the thought that God would want us to stretch ourselves so thin, to sell the precious perfume, (eleven months wages in Mary's case) that we've been saving up especially for Him? Cast away the thought that we are "wasting" our precious time and energy better spent elsewhere as we seek to serve Christ in how He has led our family to serve Him.

Determine what that is for you,

Shake off the guilt of all the stuff you'll never do and entrust to Jesus all the poor or greedy people wanting your costly perfume...

and then make sure you breathe very very deep of the beautiful scent as you pour it out where it was meant to be poured out.


Anne Marie said...

Liz, thank you for your insight about keeping your eye on what is important to Jesus, versus what is "seemingly" important (even to other believers...) in society. I needed this encouragement!

Feathering My Nest said...

Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart. Blessings~~ Kathi