Why This Waste?
Midweek Lent 2
Sermon on Matthew 26:6-13
Why This Waste?
Text: Matthew 26:6-13
Why this waste? The disciples couldn’t believe it. It was more than just shock. It says they were indignant. John records in his gospel that Judas suggested, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and given to the poor?” Judas didn’t really care about the poor, though. He was the treasurer for the disciples and he regularly would help himself to the coffers.
But surely the others had a righteous indignation and anger! This perfume was in a beautiful alabaster jar. It was made of pure nard and was a very rare perfume. John also tells us that it was worth an entire year’s wages. The 2010 census data says that the median household income in Palm Coast is around $41,000 right now. How could she pour out 365 days worth of work in 30 seconds? The other disciples suggested that the money could be given to the poor too. Couldn’t the money have been used to buy some food? Then Jesus wouldn’t have to multiply loaves and fish again. Couldn’t they money have been used to buy an animal to ride so they didn’t have to walk everywhere? Couldn’t that have paid for several months of lodging so they didn’t have to catch shuteye on a boat while sailing across the Sea of Galilee? It wasn’t just greedy Judas. It was all the disciples. They all indignantly asked, “Why this waste?”
Perhaps you have seen some waste before. Why would the church spend money on that? These are the kinds of questions that often cause fights and debates. A local pastor told me that when he first came to his church in Orlando they asked him if he wanted tile or carpet in his office. They almost didn’t care what he thought, they just wanted him to settle the dispute. They had a committee that was looking into it, but the discussion became so heated that they had to separate and end the meeting. Over carpet or tile in the office! The church that I was at for a year in Tennessee had heated arguments before I got there about their building project. Some stormed out of meetings because the style or even color of chair they wanted was not chosen.
But these disciples weren’t only indignant over how the money or the perfume was being used. They were indignant because they thought it was being wasted. This can be a cause for contention in churches today, too.
When I was in high school my father’s church renovated the organ that had been there for decades. The cost of renovating this massive pipe organ? $500,000! Not everyone agreed with that decision.
Some of the same arguments could be made here. Why in all the world would we take on so much debt? The tower alone might have added $75,000 to our project. We didn’t have to double dry wall in the sanctuary. The acoustics could have been alright. Couldn’t we have used that $8,000 to fund the whole kids carnival next year? Why spend $10,000 on a grand piano (which actually is worth 4-5 times that)? We certainly could worship God with the old electric piano hooked up to some speakers. Why put new furnishing in the classrooms? Couldn’t we find nice used ones? Were TVs and computers really necessary in the school? Do we really need to expand the school? Why this waste?!
It is most certainly true that God is not pleased when we waste our blessings. God gives us everything that we have. He expects, even commands, us to use it wisely. How interesting to hear God’s perspective then on how this $40,000 worth of perfume was used. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Those words of Jesus are fulfilled even as I spoke them just now. The beautiful thing she did is retold today in memory of her.
You see, this woman understood who Jesus was. This was no ordinary woman in Scripture. John’s gospel tells us exactly who this was. This was Mary. Mary was the sister of Martha. Mary was the one who intently sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words while Martha wrongfully focused on fixing Jesus a meal. Mary and Martha were the ones who had a brother named Lazarus. Not long before this perfume event, Mary watched as Jesus raised her brother from the dead. Now here they were, eating at the house of Simon the Leper, and John tells us that Lazarus was there with them!
Mary clearly understood. She understood the consequences of sin. She understood that death is a result of sin. Her brother experienced it himself. But she also understood what Jesus told them, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
So she came to Jesus, humble and repentant of her sins. She could barely look at Jesus. Matthew tells us here that she poured perfume onto his head. But John tells us that she also poured it on his feet and washed his feet with her hair. You would be hard pressed to find something more humble—something giving more honor to someone else—than washing their dirty feet with your hair and perfume that is worth your whole year’s salary.
She understood who Jesus was. He was her Savior. He was the one who soon would be going away. He would be suffering and dying, as he taught her and so many others. She was preparing Jesus for his death. She was preparing Jesus for his burial. And thus, she was giving greatest honor to Jesus because she knew that like Lazarus, she would live and not die because of Jesus.
What can we do this Lent but join Mary? We fall on our knees at the feet of our Savior. Mary knew what was coming for Jesus. He had been teaching it. So also we know what is coming for Christ. We’ve been focusing on it. Soon he will march from this city of Bethany the few miles into the city of Jerusalem. There unthinkable pain and sorrow will be his. There all my sins will be carried. There my death will be endured.
Imagine being like Mary, and actually being able to see and touch your King. What would you do? What would you think about the one who knows everything you have ever done? He was there and watched! He knows when you lied. He heard when you cursed. He knows what you saw or watched. He knows what you thought. Would we not also fall at the feet of our king in humility, knowing that he knows our sins?
Yet you have the same knowledge, the same understanding, the same faith as Mary. What would you do if you were able to see and touch your Savior? What would you think about the one who washed your wrongs away and remembers your sins no more? What would you think about the one who offered to die for you so that you wouldn’t have? What would think about the one who loves you so much that he literally went to hell and back for you?
I know what we would do. I know what we would think. We will come to all Lenten worship and fall at Jesus’ feet in repentance. We will gladly and joyfully gather every Sunday to worship and praise our great Savior in King. In fact, we’ll enjoy worshiping our Savior so much on Sunday we’ll wish that we had midweek services all year long. We’ll be so thankful to him that we won’t have enough money to give back to him. We’ll give him our very best offerings since he gave us eternal life. We’ll enjoy a sanctuary in which extra effort was made to design and build with our very best gifts to honor our Savior. We’ll continue to expand our school with the very best teachers and the very best equipment and even the very best chairs and desks because we are honoring God with our school ministry and we are teaching those precious children about eternal salvation through Jesus.
The world will join the disciples in their moment of indignation and disbelief. Why this waste? Why waste your time at church? Why waste your time serving and volunteering? Why waste your money in offerings? Why waste your money in special gifts? Why this waste?
That’s fine. We aren’t like the world. We’re like Mary. We know who Jesus is. We know what Jesus came to do. We know that we love him with all our heart, and we know that we want to give him our very best. He deserves it. He is worthy of it. We gladly give it. We value the cross. With Jesus, there is no waste.
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Posted on March 16, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Alabaster, Bethany, Church, Lazarus, Mary, Mary and Martha, Offerings, Perfume, Sermons, Stewardship, Waste. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.