BY PASTOR T.O.BANSO
There is a story in the Bible which shows how someone may not be appreciated for doing what is right but condemned. But thank God that Jesus did not allow the critics of the doer of this good deed to get away with their unfair criticism.
“Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy. During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume. She broke the seal and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. ‘Why was this expensive perfume wasted?’ they asked. ‘She could have sold it for a small fortune and given the money to the poor!’ And they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory” (Mark 14:3-9 NLT).
In the passage above, Jesus had a need of someone to anoint His body for burial ahead of time, but He did not tell anyone about it – not even the disciples. Even though, the woman in this passage was unaware of this need of Jesus, she went ahead to lavishly pour over Jesus’ head, an expensive perfume. She had no idea of the implication of her generous action. She was just doing what she did from her heart.
But who were her critics? The people who were the closest to Jesus. The people who should have appreciated most her generosity towards their principal. The disciples of Jesus, rather than commend this woman, condemned her. She was criticized and scolded harshly, for her generous action. They accused her of wasting an expensive perfume, when she could have sold it for a fortune and give the money to the poor! Why should they criticize the woman for ‘wasting’ what belonged to her? But the woman was right; the disciples were wrong.
John’s account of this incident allows us to know that the woman in question was Mary, the sister of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. John’s account also tells us that Judas Iscariot was the one who condemned her action – the other disciples must have condemned the woman’s action but, probably, it was Judas Iscariot who had the effrontery to voice their displeasure. He was their spokesperson on this occasion for obvious reason! “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:3-6 NKJV). The criticism of other disciples might have flowed out of their sincere love for the poor but not so for Judas. Judas’ harsh condemnation resulted from his greed. He was a thief – so the Bible tells us. He only wanted more money in the purse to steal.
While the disciples condemned the woman’s action and described it as a waste, Jesus took special notice of the woman’s significant and generous action and gave her an eternal reward. Her seed yielded an eternal harvest. Jesus said, “Wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory.” Even now as I write, I am fulfilling this prophecy of Jesus. Jesus met the need of the people for the good news and the woman met his need too and got a strange harvest in return. “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving — large or small — it will be used to measure what is given back to you” (Luke 6:38 NLT).
The woman died long time ago, but till today, just as Jesus said, her good deed, erroneously described as a waste, is still being spoken about. Her good deed outlived her. William James said, “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” That was exactly what the woman did.
The minimum the disciples, especially Judas Iscariot, could have done was to keep their mouths shut while the woman ‘wasted’ her expensive perfume on Jesus. “Who are you to criticize the servant of Another?” (Rom 14:4 Moffart)
If they had kept quiet, no one would have known they didn’t support her action. Prov. 17:28 says, “Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent” (NLT). But they were too absolute in their criticism as if they were dead sure the woman was wrong. Why blame someone for using her resources or gifts to bless others? The owner is pleased and fulfilled giving these gifts out. God knows he or she would be free and willing to give them away. That was, probably, why God gave them to him or her in the first instance. He didn’t give them to critics who would rather sell it and think of distributing it (and they usually didn’t give after selling and collecting the money because they had not mastered money or conquered the mammon).
There was nothing bad in selling the expensive perfume and giving the money to the poor, as suggested by the disciples, if it came from a sincere heart. Three hundred denarii, which the perfume could have sold for, was not small money. A denarius was a common labourer’s wages for a day, and that means three hundred denarii was close to a year’s salary of a common labourer at that time. But at the moment the woman did what she did, the perfume was not meant for sale; it was meant for a seed into the life of Jesus.
Lessons from the woman’s generous giving
There are lessons here for everybody. First, nothing that’s done for the Lord is a waste, no matter the price that is paid, no matter the magnitude of what is done. “With all this going for us my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort” (1 Cor 15:58 The Message).
Another lesson to learn is not to be too quick to criticize or condemn somebody’s action, particularly when you don’t have all the details or you cannot say that you understand absolutely the issue at stake. Please, I am not talking here about what the Bible has clearly stated is a sin. Even in pointing out someone’s sin, it must be done in love. Eph 4:15 says, “But speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, (even) Christ” (ASV). The truth must be spoken in love, not in a way to destroy the other person which is what many often do.
Always show restraint in casting the first stone! You cannot pull someone down without first going down. Be lenient on people; show them love, even as you try to speak on behalf of God, and in defence of His standards. And please, I am not talking about compromising the Word of God or speaking apologetically about the truth. “If the godly compromise with the wicked, it is like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring” (Prov 25:26 NLT).
What more lesson can we learn? Face your business, because you may be wrong, like the disciples of Jesus were. Leave everyone to use his or her gifts as God has given him or her. God will not hold you accountable for the gifts He didn’t give you. Understand that “God works through different people in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purpose through them all” (1 Cor 12:6 J.B Philips).
God will not work in you through the gifts that He has not given you; and even when you have the same gifts that another person has, God will not use you the same way He’ll use that person. Therefore, don’t condemn people who’re doing something in a way different from your way, once they’re not committing a sin. God works through people in different ways or methods, and not your own ways or methods alone. “Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (Gal 6:4-5 NLT).
What each person needs to do is to be himself or herself and let others be themselves WITHIN THE STANDARDS THAT GOD HAS SET FOR ALL. Please, take note of the phrase in capital letters because no one is permitted to do what seems right in his own eyes like Israel did at a time in the life of that nation (Judges 17:6, 21:25). Remember the Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12 NKJV). Prov 16:25 says a similar thing.
Wise people seek to live their lives according to God’s standards but fools, saying they are wise, reject God’s way. Don’t be wise in your own eyes otherwise you tell others that you are a fool. Prov 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; But he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsel” (ASV).
Furthermore, another lesson to learn from criticizing others about the way they are using their God-given resources is to be careful about your motive. Search your motives. Are you saying what you’re saying out of envy, greed, insecurity, etc? You don’t need to feel insecure about others using their God-given resources or gifts. Let them use theirs. When it is your turn, you should use yours too to the glory of God and for the good of humanity. Comparison is not wisdom. “Oh, don’t worry; I wouldn’t dare say that I am as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, and measuring themselves by themselves. What foolishness!” (2 Cor 10:12 NLT) What should we do? It’s very simple and clear. Verse 13 tells us: “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us…” (NLT).
Also, take note of people’s motive before you join them in their criticism. They may not be sincere; they may have a hidden agenda. Their motives may be different from yours. Therefore, don’t join them. If you discover their ignoble motive later, you may hate yourself for supporting them; you’ll not like it to know that they’ve used you in pursuit of a selfish agenda.
Be encouraged; your labour is not in vain
If you’re being ignorantly criticized like that woman, you shouldn’t be discouraged. You should continue to pour your ‘perfume’ on the head of Jesus. Your good work is not a waste, no matter what people say. God will surely remember your labour of love (Heb 6:10). He’ll reward you. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev 22:12 KJV) He says in Is 45:19 “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right” (NKJV). God has not asked you to serve Him in vain. He has not called you into a fruitless service. Your service, your giving or your kindness is not in vain; it’s not a waste.
Paul said he was holding fast the word of life, so that he may rejoice in the day of Christ that he had not run in vain or labored in vain (Phil 2:16). That means he expected a reward at the end of the race set before him. His motivation for the race like any other athlete was the reward waiting for him. Paul urges us to “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27 NLT). Yours is not a wasted service. Your running is not for the sake of it – there is a prize to be received if you run well.
Your suffering is not a waste – not in vain. “You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away?” (Gal 3:4 NLT) Don’t let discouragement rob you of your reward. There’s a harvest waiting for every labourer; there’s a pay day. God has reserved a time for His labourers to reap the harvest of what they’ve sown. The seed you’ve sown is not a waste. Anything done for the Lord is a seed and not a waste. As sure as the seed time is so is the time for harvest (Gen 8:22).
Apostle Paul says, in 2 Cor 9:6-9, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (NKJV). Sow sparingly, reap spiritually; sow bountifully, reap bountifully. You reap whatever you sow. In due season – the appropriate time – you shall reap your harvest.
Here is another word of encouragement again from Paul: “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time” (Gal 6:9 NLT). The harvest is always more than the seed sown. Very soon, your ploughing will overtake your reaping if you faint not. “Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper , and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt” (Amos 9:13 ASV). It’ll happen in your life in Jesus’ name. Don’t regard your labour as a waste. Don’t let your critics call your seed a waste. No, it is not a waste!
If you’re not born again, you need to make yourself ready for eternity. I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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