Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
Whenever I read this passage, I am always struck by the fact that the disciples, who aren’t earning money while they follow Jesus all over the country, feel that they have the right to tell this female disciple how she should be handling her resources. Jesus quickly corrects them, but he shouldn’t have needed to. Maybe there are folk in your churches and communities who you sometimes look at and think “you should be doing X to help the church, the community, yourself” because as humans it is something we do without even thinking, but the truth is we each have to stand before God at the allotted time and God will judge whether we used our resources, money, selves to the best of our abilities.
Jesus knew that being prepared for burial at that point in time was the most important thing, even if the disciples didn’t know it, or understand that it wasn’t their place to judge. And that is the other thing, sometimes we will look at folk and think that they aren’t using their resources “correctly/appropriately” but we don’t know the big picture in other people’s lives and situations. This reading makes clear that only God can know if our actions and spending of resources is for the right/true reason, but this reading also reminds us that we give what we can, and not berate ourselves for not having more to give, because God will fully utilise whatever we can offer, each and every day. Plus, Jesus told the disciples that this female disciples’ actions would be remembered always, her name has been lost to time in this gospel, but her actions have lived on and Jesus knows who she is, and that is what matters.
Lord, often it is easy to point at others and comment on how they should be doing more for the Church, but you remind us through Scripture that what each of us give through faith is only between you and the individual. Help us to be less opinionated about others and more focused on what you are asking from ourselves. Amen
Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, CRCW, Ansty Road United Reformed Church, Coventry