Can there be waste in worship?
John 11:55-12:19 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.
12 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 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. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”
In today’s text it says: Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But 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. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” Within the church today we see at times this same debate or criticism. There are some who perform extravagant acts of worship, sparing no expense to worship God, while others believe that everything should be kept very simple and money should be spent taking care of the needs of the poor. As it was with Judas, the truth is really a heart matter, not a money matter. There is nothing we can do, nothing we can spend or expend in worship that is enough to show our appreciation for what God has done. Certainly even the most extravagant offering is not too much. If even the most simple and basic worship is focused on what people desire rather than giving all to God, isn’t there really more fault in that? On the other hand, if our worship and its extravagance is really an effort to impress people rather than expressing love, gratitude and reverence to God, then it really isn’t worship at all.
The truth is, you can’t out give God. In 1 Kings 17:7-16 there is an account of a poor widow who is told by Elijah to give all that she had to him, but in return her supply never ran out. She always had enough. In Matthew 14, we see the account of the five thousand being fed with five loaves and two fish. Here too, they gave all that they had to Jesus and it was more than enough. In fact they got back more than they started with. After everyone had eaten they picked up twelve basketsful of what was left. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Our worship of God is one of the most important ways we serve Him. Jesus says: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Our worship, what we do and what we give is really a matter of the heart and we should not judge the heart of others, but we ourselves should worship in truth.
In the text it says: 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. Is it not often that we too are not really concerned about the things we say we are, but that in truth we simply do not agree with the way things are being done by others? Jesus response is: “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” As cold as it may sound, the truth is there will always be poor people in the world. There will always, regardless of how much of our finances and our service we give to the poor, still be those with needs. Jesus speaks of His burial. He died so that we could live. He gave all that He had so that we could have all that we need. That is the heart of true worship. There is nothing we can do to repay Him for what He has done. But there is nothing too extravagant or excessive if it is done from the heart. It is a good thing to give to and serve the poor and the needy. In Matthew 6:1-4 Jesus says: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In verses 19-21 He says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Again in verse 24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” In verses 25-33 He says: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Whether for our own needs or to meet the needs of others, we will do best if we do it His way not our own. God’s economy is not limited like ours is. If we will give all to Him, even giving extravagantly, we will never lack all that we need.
In verses 9-13 of Matthew 6 Jesus says: “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ Amen.