There is an interesting story in the gospels of a woman who anoints Jesus feet with pure nard, a costly perfumed ointment. In this story there are several attitudes and matters that we can learn from which help us understand the heart of the Lord. It goes to the heart of what and how we should give our gifts to and for Jesus.
He did not think the way man thinks for He is the Son of God. So any opportunity we can get as an insight to how the Lord thinks should be reviewed and understood.
In this scripture we see that it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus that anointed Jesus with this costly perfume. She broke the jar of nard open, anointed His feet and wiped them with her hair.
However Judas Iscariot, who was to betray Jesus, looked at this with evil intent. We must realise first that he had the rest of the disciples fooled for it was not obvious that he was a betrayer. Only Jesus knew He was to be betrayed by Judas.
Judas looked at this act of Mary’s and basically presented the action as a huge waste. He said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (Verse 5)
Clearly this ointment was very, VERY valuable. Given that one denarius was a day’s wage for a labourer, this one single pound of nard cost the equivalent of three hundred days wages for a labourer. Put into today’s terms that represents tens of thousands of dollars. Sort of makes Chanel No. 5 look cheap and nasty!
But Judas was not really interested in the poor. He wanted to sell the nard for the poor box as he was the “treasurer” and he was a thief. He intended to steal the money from the poor box for his own benefit.
Judas thought like a criminal, but to the others it probably sounded as though he was trying to do something good. The others thought Judas was caring about the poor and so they may have agreed with him at some level. This is how man thinks, but the Lord saw things differently.
The Lord’s View
Jesus knew that Judas was stealing the money but he let him go for Judas had a bigger role yet to play. However when Judas said that the perfume should have been sold and given to the poor, Jesus said “No.” In verses 6 and 7 we see the following.
7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.
8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Firstly, Jesus said for her to keep the nard and not to sell it. This is an important lesson. Whatever possessions you own are yours to do with as you please. You do not have to give them to the poor, the church, charities or whatever if you don’t want to. Even if they are excess to your own needs, you have the right to do whatever you want with your possessions.
A good parallel to this was when the people were selling assets and bringing the money to lay at the feet of the disciples in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira sold some land and brought only a part of the proceeds to the apostles, and they were within their rights to do that. There was no compulsion for them to bring it all. But they conspired together and lied about what they got for the land saying they only received what they gave. As Peter told them, they had lied not to men but to the Holy Spirit and they died on the spot.
Once the nard was opened Jesus told Judas to leave her alone. She had used it for SHE wanted to use it for. Judas was not to put any pressure on her nor make her feel guilty for not selling the nard and donating the money to the poor. Basically Jesus said to Judas to “back off.” Instead the Lord suggested she kept whatever remained and use it to prepare Jesus for burial, since she had already used it on him and the jar was now opened.
Ever been in the above situation before? Either as the one being pressured to do something or to give when you could neither afford it or did not really want to? Or conversely have you been the one applying the pressure or judging someone unfavourably when they did not give what YOU thought they should give?
Bottom line is that when we give we must give only what we are comfortable giving. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If we are not giving cheerfully then we are not giving correctly. And this is not a forced cheerfulness. You should be comfortable and joyful in your giving, not pressured or forced by anyone or in any way.
That is the lesson from this scripture. Give in accordance with what you can do and in accordance with how you have made up your mind to give. It’s your stuff you are giving and if you are unhappy giving your gift, then don’t give it. And don’t feel pressured into it for the Lord only wants what you are happy to give and able to give without causing hardship.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Mihai Andoni)