Hoarding or Loving
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
From Fear to Love April 11, 2020
The pandemic reveals some of the best that humanity has to offer: researchers and medical personnel working tirelessly to treat the sick and find a vaccine, companies retooling to provide critical personal protection equipment, people staying at home to ‘flatten the curve’. We could cite numerous other examples and we appreciate and applaud the efforts of so many to keep us well and whole. But the pandemic also exposes the darkness existing in the human heart: people exploiting the adversity for profit, engaging in non-essential social activities without regard to the welfare of others, and people hoarding goods thereby creating a lack for others. Again, we could site numerous other examples. People hoard out of fear of running out of essentials, a desire to provide for and protect their family, and a sense of security. As harmful as stockpiling goods during a pandemic may be, a far greater, less-acknowledged type of hoarding exists that infects the human heart: hoarding love toward God. Our previous blog focused on Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, and his sisters, Mary and Martha. In today’s blog, we look at how Mary, and many of Jesus’ other followers, loved him so that we may love Jesus genuinely and avoid hoarding our love for him.
Many of the people who witness Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, including some of the religious leaders, believe in Christ while others witnesses tell the religious leaders what Jesus did. Fearing that people would leave them to follow Christ, the leaders plot to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. The leaders plan to arrest Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem to observe the approaching Jewish Passover. Against this backdrop, we read of the extravagant love Jesus’ disciples have for Him during a dinner given in Jesus’ honor: “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Mary and many of the disciples’ actions show us how to love Christ genuinely. I credit Pastor James Boice for many of the thoughts in this blog post.
We Love Christ Genuinely When We:
Love Christ Knowingly
Mary knew she anointed Jesus in anticipation of his burial (verse 7). Mary understood what the others could not despite the fact Jesus repeatedly stated he would go to Jerusalem to die. Mary knew what she was doing because when we encounter her in Scripture, she is found at Jesus’ feet (vs 3, John 11:32; Luke 10:39). Sitting at someone’s feet is a Hebrew idiom that meant to learn from that person. Mary disciplined herself & set the priority to learn from Christ. A true lover of Christ learns God’s word through numerous means so that he/she knows how to love Christ.
Love Christ Gratefully
When Mark 14 and Matthew 26 record this event, they mention that Simon the Leper hosted this gathering at his home presumably to thank Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead and apparently healing Simon of leprosy. Of course, in raising Lazarus, Jesus declared that He was the resurrection and life and that whoever believes and lives in Him would be saved from his/her sin and rescued from the clutches of the grave. In gratitude for Christ’s gift of salvation and all his other blessings, they loved Jesus and obeyed him.
Love Christ Courageously
Given the climate of hostility toward Jesus and Lazarus, it was risky to associate closely with Christ (John 11:57, 12:42). All of the dinner guests courageously risked getting in trouble with the religious leaders and possible excommunication as a result of their love for and association with Christ. They truly feared God more than people. Further, Mary’s act of love and devotion to Jesus was courageous because she expressed her love to Jesus contrary to social conventions. At the time, a woman would not let her hair down in the company of men and at least 14 men attended this dinner party. Some may have viewed Mary’s expression of love as somewhat scandalous and socially awkward. Mary bucked social custom to serve her Lord and declare her love for him not to oppose authority for rebellion’s sake. Mary’s love for Christ was so great that she is compelled to display her love to Jesus urgently regardless of what others think of her. We can permit the fear of people or the worry of what others think dictate our love for Christ rather than loving him courageously. The apostle Paul’s young protégé, Timothy, was a genuine lover of Christ who struggled with timidity. His mentor reminded him, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
Love Christ Lavishly
We read in John 12:3 of the lavish way Mary loved Jesus: ‘Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’ “Pure Nard” is an aromatic herb grown in the high pasture land of the Himalayas between Tibet & India. Mark and Matthew add that the nard was contained in an alabaster flask that Mary broke open, thereby using the entire pound of nard to pour over Jesus’ head and feet wiping up the excess from his feet with her hair.
Mary incurred Judas’ indignation for this extravagant display of costly love. Judas’ first recorded statement in Scripture appears in verse 5: “why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” While verse 6 explains Judas was not concerned about the poor but wanted to line his own pockets, Mark & Matthew inform us that the other disciples join his indignation over Mary’s extravagance.
Jesus rebukes them: “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial” (verse 7). Jesus’ statement is to be understood as “it was in order that she might keep it for the day of my burial” referring to the purpose of the anointing rather than that some of the ointment be set aside for His burial. Mary’s act of love was extravagant by any measure as the oil could have been sold for 300 Denarii meaning 300 days of wages. If 300 work days equals 3,000 work hours (10 hours/day x 300 work days) and we multiply 3,000 working hours by Georgia’s minimum hourly wage of $7.25, Mary’s loving act cost nearly $22,000 by today’s minimum wage standards (not counting overtime!). Many suggest that this costly perfume was Mary’s prized possession and she broke this flask in love to Jesus. Are you extravagant in your love for Jesus? If you so, be assured He won’t fault you for it. Mary’s love to Jesus also resulted in a blessing to others as the entire house filled with the pleasing scent of the oil. Jim Boice challenges believers: "If you are not a blessing to other people, if seeing you does not make them think of Jesus, if your own life seems dry and unprofitable, then do what Mary did. Get down on your knees before Jesus. Give him your all. Do it now. Pour out your life before him. If you seek to hoard your life and substance, you will not be a blessing to others, and you will lose even those possessions in the end. “You will be saved,” as Paul says, “but as by fire.” On the other hand, if you give him your life, then you will become enriched yourself and will inevitably become a blessing to all about you."
This call to love Christ so fully is a tall order to fill. What can motivate & equip us not be a hoarder but to love Christ so fully and completely? We must first embrace that He, the Son of God, was broken & spilled out for us. The song Broken and Spilled Out captures this very well:
One day a plain village woman Driven by love for her Lord Recklessly poured out a valuable essence Disregarding the scorn And once it was broken and spilled out A fragrance filled all the room Like a pris'ner released from his shackles Like a spirit set free from the tomb Broken and spilled out Just for love of you Jesus My most precious treasure Lavished on Thee Broken and spilled out And poured at Your feet In sweet abandon Let me be spilled out And used up for Thee Lord You were God's precious treasure His loved and His own perfect Son Sent here to show me The love of the Father Just for love it was done And though You were perfect and holy You gave up Yourself willingly You spared no expense for my pardon You were used up and wasted for me Broken and spilled out Just for love of me Jesus God's most precious treasure Lavished on me You were broken and spilled out And poured at my feet In sweet abandon Lord You were spilled out and used up for Me In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out And used up for Thee
To read the other blog posts in this series click on the links below: