Nard is fancy perfume. It cost top dollar in first Century Middle Eastern Culture. It's not something that you want to spill. It's the type of perfume that you pour a dime sized amount into your palm and gently rub it into the your skin. You try to make it last as long as you can, because Macy's won't have a sale on it until next Christmas.
You definitely don't want to waste it. Not too much on your neckline. Just a dab on your head. Very little on your stomach, and nothing on your elbows, your legs, and your feet.
No. Definitely not on your feet.
But that's exactly how a woman named Mary used the perfume that she had bought on Jesus. Check it out and check out the onlooker's reaction from John 12:
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
Expensive foot perfume? Was Dr. Scholl's not available at the Dollar Tree?
But look at Jesus' reply: "Leave her alone...It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial." Jesus knew her heart. He knew she was doing this out of love. He knew she was doing this in faith for the day of his burial.
But she could have used it for the poor!?!
Let's play a game. Let's determine which gift is better. But it's going to be a bit different than how we normally play it. I'm going to describe not only the gift, but also the attitude of the heart.
Which is better:
Writing out a check for $100 to a charity that you can't even pronounce the name of simply because you are sick of your next door neighbor asking and you know you'll feel guilty if you don't? Or scrounging together whatever funds you can in order to help buy one new chair for your church's preschool. Yes, they have one, but it's old and you'd love for them to have something nice. Besides, you are thankful that the teachers shared Jesus with you kid while she was there.
Which is better:
Half heartedly, without thinking about it, grab the $20 bill from your wallet to put in the church offering plate -- all the while wishing that you could take out some change? Or skipping the offering plate because you want to save the $2.57 that you have in your coin purse for lunch with your friend. She's out of work and struggling to pay rent. You want to show her the love of Jesus by paying for an ice cream cone.
Which is better:
Saving some money to feed the poor, because you have to and "God will be angry, if you don't." Or spending it all on expensive perfume to pour on the feet of the man who raised your brother to life and who promises to raise you to life through faith in him?
Here's the point:
Jesus knew her heart. She knew that she was pouring perfume on his feet in complete love. He also knew Judas' heart. He knew that he was wanting to give to the poor out of compulsion and a desire to skim a little off the top.
Attitude is important. Sometimes we get so fixated on the amount, the way it's used, the method it's used (which are all important and valuable to consider) that we completely forget to focus on our reason for giving: "Jesus took away all my sins! Through faith in him, there's nothing else I need to do to earn heaven. He gave his life for me. That's awesome love! Now I'm going to share that awesome love with the way that I give!"
Now we may react to the incredible love of Jesus in a lot of different ways: One helps her friend in need. One pays for flowers on the altar. One buys sheet music for the choir. Another routinely buys the paper towels for fellowship after the service. Still another offers to pay for a struggling member's month of rent.
But all of these acts of love, are acts of love! In our pride, we might try to bring down these acts of love, but who are we to judge!?!
Are you going to be the one to tell your four year old that she should invest her quarter in order to one day pay for her college tuition?
Or will you encourage her and thank her for her Sunday School gift that goes to help build a new classroom for a church in Apacheland?
Jesus is the judge of heart. And he loves a cheerful giver.
PRAYER: O God above, who deserves all prayers and who sees not only the gifts presented to him, but the attitudes of our hearts, forgive us. Forgive us for attitude of unthankfulness and compulsion. Forgive us for looking down on the gifts of others. Forgive us for judging the hearts of those around us. Instead, help us to look at your love. Help us to judge that love as incredible. Compel our hearts to respond to your love with love -- in varied and numerous ways. Amen.