Not a Waste

Jesus was in the town of Bethany, eating at the home of Simon, who had leprosy. A woman came in with a bottle of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head. But when his disciples saw this, they became angry and complained, “Why such a waste? We could have sold this perfume for a lot of money and given it to the poor.”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said:

Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. She has poured perfume on my body to prepare it for burial. You may be sure that wherever the good news is told all over the world, people will remember what she has done. And they will tell others. (Matthew 26:6-13)

We shouldn’t insist that God’s will for our lives is necessarily God’s will for everyone else. My dad was a career soldier in the Air Force. That was good for him. He didn’t believe it had to be good for me too. In the same town where his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived, Jesus had a meal with Simon the leper. A woman poured expensive perfume on him.

Jesus’ disciples were upset that this woman had wasted money that could have been given to the poor. Jesus pointed out something that could seem very discouraging: “you will always have the poor with you.” Does that mean that all efforts to alleviate poverty will fail? Did Jesus suggest that the real waste of the perfume would have been to do with it what the disciples suggested?

Jesus point was not about the everlasting nature of poverty, but rather that his disciples wouldn’t always have him. Yes, the Holy Spirit would indwell them; yes, Jesus lives forever at the right hand of the Father. Yes, Jesus promised to “be” with them until the end of the world. But there was a vast difference between Jesus enjoying a meal with his disciples and being with them “in spirit.” Jesus knew he would soon be dying on the cross. It was a poignant time for him, but his disciples did not understand. Soon they would.

It is never a waste to do something special for those we love. Life is more than just giving to the poor or whatever other “good thing” our neighbor may believe we need to do.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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