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Friday, January 18, 2008

More Than Perfume

As a part of my devotional reading last week, I was directed to read through the story of John 12. I've been through this passage many times and never really found it all that significant personally. Maybe it's because I'm a guy. In the passage, a woman (Mary) takes a big bottle of perfume and dumps it all over Jesus' feet. Then, she uses her long hair to wipe them off. Whenever I read this passage, I can't help but think of how uncomfortable I would feel to either have this done to me, or be watching as it was done for someone else. It's a wonderfully artistic and beautiful picture of this woman's love for Jesus, yet it always strikes me as a little, well, "foofy".

As the story goes, Judas is the one watching this scene who become uncomfortable. He makes some complaint about not wasting the perfume, but selling and giving the money to the poor. He sounds noble and compassionate, but as the Bible tells us, he was really just a thief who wanted to embezzle some money for himself. Jesus, as we might guess, sides with the woman and tells Judas to back off; she has done a good thing.

What struck me as I read through the passage this time is how it sets two different approaches to Jesus side by side. Two different hearts, if you will. On the one side, you have Mary, who seems to be unconcerned with the value of her gift because she wants to do this wonderful thing for Jesus. On the other side, you have Judas, who is only thinking about what he could have gotten out of the deal if the perfume had been sold. The one came to give, the other wanted to get. The one came to be with Jesus and rest in His love. The other looked to use Jesus to further his own interests.

The humbling truth is that when I sit back and do some honest soul-searching, I find that more often than not, I land on Judas' side. Ok, I'm not embezzling money or anything like that, but I find it difficult to bring something to Jesus (my time, my focus, my life) simply for the fact that I love him. That's what Mary did. She brought what was valuable to her and dedicated it to Jesus. Not so that he could bless her, or give her success, or make her famous; she brought and expected nothing in return. This was an act of adoration. So often when I bring something valuable to Jesus, I'm quietly thinking about how I'll be better off because I've given it to Jesus. I think, in the back of my mind, "if I am faithful in tithing, God will bless my finances." "If I give my time to serving Jesus, he'll give me favor." "If I love people and preach well, God will advance my career."

All of those thoughts, at some level, may be true. I believe that God does bless us when we give. But after reading John 12, I couldn't help but think that when our motive for giving becomes about what we'll get, then we've lost sight of something very important. We've missed the beauty of giving to Jesus because He's worthy. We miss the opportunity to understand real love by demanding nothing in return. And we are in danger of, as Judas did, missing the heart of Jesus all together.

In your faith journey, may you know the blessedness of giving to Jesus and asking nothing in return, other than to know Him more.

Nick