Why Worship Is Never A Waste
My son just had his first birthday a few weeks ago. There were cupcakes and banners and candles - everything a one-year-old will remember for decades to come! (Ha!) When it came time to open his gifts, all the expectant family members circled around him to see how he would react to each one. And in typical toddler fashion, he was completely mesmerized with the wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, and gift bags -- much more than the actual presents inside.
My son has the excuse of being too young to perceive the worth of different items, but the disciples of Jesus didn’t have such an excuse when it came to the unfolding of this familiar scene in Scripture:
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “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. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)
At this point in the story, Jesus is making His way to the cross. He is moving inch by inch toward incredible suffering, pain, and sacrifice. And during His earthly ministry He has carefully revealed Himself to these twelve men and many others -- consistently demonstrating not only the nature of God but the worth of God.
All the parables about the treasure buried in a field and the pearl of great price and the lost coin were all pointing to the costly, infinite value of Himself -- and He needed to convince them of His great worth if He was going to ask them to lay down their lives, to follow Him into suffering, to witness to others and worship Him alone.
And perhaps that is why this scene in the Gospels is so disheartening when it comes to the disciple’s reaction.
Here a woman stood holding a small alabaster jar of expensive perfume, and she considered it to be of far less value than the Messiah reclining at the table. Her act of anointing Him with the most valuable thing in her possession is beautiful and reckless and holy -- but the disciples miscalculated and assumed the greater value should be placed on the perfume.
They are like a toddler who is content to play with tissue paper and cardboard while much more costly gifts are pushed to the side. “Why this waste?” they complained as puddles of perfume drip off the Man who left heaven’s splendor to be harnessed in human flesh, the Man who spoke a word and light ripped through the darkness, the Man who woke dead children back to life and healed withered limbs and unchained victims from their demons.
They couldn’t see that the real waste would be to hold anything back from this Man, including their very lives.
But aren’t we all guilty of such miscalculations?
If we aren’t careful we could spend a life valuing comfort, popularity, fortune, feelings, and ministry more than we value Jesus Himself. And it’s a shame to get to the end of your life and realize you made the wrong investment.
Thankfully, I believe there is a generation of women who are pouring out their precious alabaster bottles on the least and the broken and the little and the old in the name of Jesus -- all because they believe that He is worth it, He is buried treasure, He is enough to cover the sacrifice. Women who the world will scoff at -- “Why this waste?” -- but these women will leave behind a room filled with the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Christ, knowing they made the right investment.
I know mothers who are neck-deep in the sacrifice of nurturing tiny people because Jesus is worth it. I know women who have sacrificed seasons of comfort and ease to get back into a demanding role of serving the church because Jesus is worth it. I know college girls who are sacrificing “the best years of their lives” to serve prostitutes and single moms and homeless people because Jesus is worth it. I know women with a full house of people invite orphans and foster kids into their lives for seasons or a lifetime, because Jesus is worth it. I’ve seen women leave jobs and women start jobs all because Jesus is worth it.
Here we stand with our bottles of time, resources, comfort, pleasures, and talents.
Will we make the right investment?
Will we ask, “What’s in it for me?” or “How much can I give Him?”
When we not only believe that Jesus is worth it but act like Jesus is worth it -- only then will we unwrap the Greatest Treasure of our lives instead of getting distracted with the wrapping paper.
Kaysie Strickland is passionate about words + actions proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, adores her son Charlie, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house, loves gardening and DIY projects, and enjoys serving women through the ministry of Homes & Havens. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook| Twitter | Blog