And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9 ESV
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 ESV
My dad was always very careful with his money, and he was much happier saving money than spending it. When I started thinking about getting a second college degree, I was worried about telling him, because I knew it would cost him more money. But he said something to me that I’ll never forget: “No time or money spent on education is ever wasted.” Some people figure out how much an education costs and then they figure out how much extra money a person might earn with that education, and that’s how they figure out if money spent on education is wasted. But my dad had a different idea. He believed that education changes people for the better, and gives people a broader understanding of life. He knew that there is no way to put a price tag on the value of education, so he didn’t try to make calculations like that.
Jesus said something similar when a woman (John’s Gospel tells us it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus) poured some very expensive ointment over Jesus’ head. They scolded her for this act of love, and they said she had wasted money that could have been given to the poor. They were starting to calculate how much food, or how many coats or pairs of sandals, they might have bought for poor people with that money. But Jesus told them to stop scolding Mary. He said that she had done a beautiful thing for him. He knew that his death was coming, and that he wouldn’t be with them much longer, and he even said that she was preparing his body for being buried. One thing Jesus was saying is that no act of love spent on him is ever wasted.
Sometimes people do things because they love Jesus, and others feel as if it is a waste. Maybe they try to help people in need, but those people don’t really appreciate it or work to change their lives. Maybe a person spends years doing mission work, but very few people come to know the love of Jesus through that work. Maybe someone is kind to hateful, hurtful people, but their hearts don’t change. “What a waste!” we might think. But anything done for the love of Jesus is never wasted. He sees and knows about the work we are doing in his name, and he can bless it in ways we might never understand. Jesus poured out his life for us and for all people on the cross, even those who reject him, and we can freely pour out our love for him and other people, trusting him to bless that love in the way that is best.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your wonderful love that you poured out for us. Thank you for accepting and blessing the love we give you back. Amen.