There are a few principles we can learn from this section of scripture where we see the anointing of Jesus by this woman. We see here a woman came to Jesus while he was in the house of Simon the leper and anointed him with a flask of very expensive ointment.
The disciples were indignant over this matter saying that this was wasteful. They thought it would have been better for the ointment to be sold as it was quite valuable, and then the money could have been used to aid the poor. The intentions of the disciples may have been good, but they were wrong. In other versions of this incident it was Judas who made these claims. He did not care for the poor but he was a thief and was stealing money from the moneybox. (John 12:1-8) No doubt they could have sold this ointment and used it to help the poor, but that was not the path Jesus took in this matter.
Jesus said to the disciples not to be indignant and not to reproach the woman for her actions. Instead he said that this woman had done a beautiful thing for him. In doing this she had done what she could in preparation for his burial. Jesus also made the point that they would always have the poor with them and could use whatever opportunities arose to help them out at other times. But they would not always have Jesus with them in the flesh. There are some principles here that Jesus was making and which we all should consider.
First we must understand that the flask of ointment belonged to the woman. She had the right to do whatever she wanted to do with it. If she wanted to take it and give it to the poor she could have done so. If she wanted to take it to the sea and throw it over a cliff she could have done that too, for it was hers to do with as she pleased. By anointing Jesus with this ointment she was doing what she wanted and was honouring the Lord in a way that was pleasing to her and the Lord.
This same principle is seen in Acts 5:1-5.
1 But a man named Anani’as with his wife Sapphi’ra sold a piece of property,
2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, “Anani’as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 When Anani’as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
The point Peter was making here is that the property that this man and his wife had was at their disposal to do with as they pleased. They did not have to sell it nor did they have to offer all of the proceeds of the sale to the apostles for distribution to the poor. It was theirs to do with as they chose both before and after the sale. Their fault was in lying about the matter to look good. They sold the property and kept part of the money and then lied saying they sold it for a lesser amount than they actually received. They would have been better to have sold it and then offered a part of the proceeds and told the truth about the amount rather than lie to try and impress others or make themselves out to be better than they were. They paid for their lies with their life.
Whatever we own is ours to do with as we choose. We can give it or keep it. When we give it should be given freely and without feeling pushed into giving for then it is no longer a freewill gift. Nor should we give expecting something in return.
No person has the right to judge another for his or her decision to give or not give either. This is what the disciples were doing with this woman who gave her expensive ointment to Jesus. They did not have the right to judge and reproach her over her gift for it was hers to do with as she pleased. And in recognition of her gift, Jesus set them straight and said that she would be remembered always for the gift she gave to him.
The importance of this scripture to us today is to be careful likewise not to judge someone for his or her decision. Whether they give or choose not to is up to them, not us. If their decision is wrong, they will wear the consequences of that decision as Anani’as and Sapphi’ra did. But ultimately it is their decision to do whatever they please with their property. We may hope they use it well as we should try to use our own property well, but it may not always be the case. We may not understand the reasons, but we must accept them for it is worse to judge another person especially as we may not know the circumstances under which they are making their decisions. It is especially important for us not to take the path the apostles took. When a person does give we should not denigrate or minimise the value of the gift as they did for the gift is from the heart and according to the wishes of that person to help as they see fit. We should not judge another persons decision but accept it for what it is as giving is an expression of love. Do not condemn over an expression of love.