Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Why This Waste?”

Matthew 26:8

I was reading in Matthew chapter 26 this morning. You know the experience. There you are going through a passage that you must have read dozens of times before. You think to yourself, “yep…been here, read that.” Your eyes glide across the page, but are frankly not expecting anything to penetrate your heart. And then…unexpectedly…something strikes you. A text jumps off the page and pokes you in the eye.

I sat and stared. The passage was the familiar story of the anointing of Jesus’ head with the expensive perfume by the unnamed woman in the house of Simon the leper. I say “unnamed” as she is not given a name in Matthew 26 or Mark 14. A similar incident is recorded in John 12 when Jesus is anointed by Mary, the brother of Lazarus, but it is possible this was a separate anointing altogether. Her expensive gift, however, became the subject of severe criticism by some.

But in my mind, it was only Judas who objected to this display of loving extravagance bestowed upon Christ. Judas is specifically identified in John’s account. "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?”" (John 12:4-5)

I guess Judas’ indignation made sense to me. He never had any true love for Christ. He was a thief. He had no true appreciation for the great work of redemption, no true love for the kingdom of God and no personal interest in the Savior of souls. Maybe that is why this passage in Matthew 26 surprised me. In this account, and in this anointing, we read: "But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying,Why this waste?" (Matthew 26:8)

When His disciples saw it!  Whether this was a different anointing or not, the fact is that Jesus’ other disciples, His true followers and His sincere sheep did not appreciate the beauty and love of this gift bestowed generously upon the precious head of Jesus Christ. In fact, they called it a waste. “Why this waste?”

And this nailed me. It was the "Christians" who were complaining.  This got me thinking.  How easy it is to justify time and money spent on material things. How generous I am, even extravagant, in the hours devoted to pleasures, hobbies and personal interests. But so stingy I become when it has to do with pursuing spiritual interests! It is as though, with respect to these matters, my greedy and selfish heart cries out “why this waste?” “Hours” spent easily on me. “Seconds” painfully parted with when spent upon others. Worst of all, my sinful heart actually tries to justify these pitiful priorities, not unlike the disciples when they cried "For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”" (Matthew 26:9)

We are greatly mistaken when we think it is only unbelievers who have misplaced spiritual priorities. Disciples can sometimes be deluded. God gives us His precious Word, but we neglect it. What? Actually invest serious time and energy into heart-searching study of the Scirptures? Why this waste? God gives us unlimited access to Him in prayer, but we avoid it. What? Set aside a block of time from our already over-scheduled lives for communion with our Creator? Why this waste? God gives us churches, but we don’t appreciate them. What? Actually invest some energy into loving others outside my immediate family circle? Why this waste? God gives us pastors, but we typically don’t value them. What? Thank the Lord and treat with honor and respect and generosity those entrusted with the care of our immortal souls? Why this waste? Above all, we have been given Christ Himself, as Savior and Lord…but how rarely do we seek Him and strive to please and obey Him! What? Pour into the pursuit of Christ resources which might be spent on me or my children? Why this waste?

Why this waste? When I look back soberly over much of what I have poured my time and efforts into through the past 40 years...that is really the question I am left with: why this waste? Hours wasted that cannot be regained. Energies wasted that should have been spent loving Christ and loving others. And all the feeble excuses and arguments I have used to try and justify my unbelief. Why this waste? That good woman’s perfume was not wasted. Not a drop was lost. And in the end, the only thing wasted will be the moments spent in sin and selfishness. Christ did not consider His own blood “wasted” when He bled and died for sinners like you and I. Dear reader, let us not consider our lives “wasted” if spent entirely and exclusively for Him.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My New Year's Resolution

God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth.”

Genesis 1:17

O my soul. What wonders do the skies contain! The sun in all its fiery majesty, the moon in all its silent beauty, the stars in all their vast dominion invite our finite minds to behold a bit of infinity. They existed before our birth - all births - and they observe our brief lives until the day they shed light upon our graves. And yet for all their grandeur and ancient wisdom God constructed them for service: “to give light on the earth.”

There is a lesson to be learned from these lights. Greatness is not measured by the number of servants we have. Greatness is measured by the number of people we serve. The greatest souls have always been the greatest servants. This is what Jesus taught. “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant (Matthew 23:11).” Oh that I might learn from the Heavenly Academy this lesson in Celestial Humility!

J. Gresham Machen (1881 – 1937) seemed to know this. I read a brief account of his life today, written by a man who may be the last living student who sat under this theological giant. Few have ascended to Machen’s level in Biblical scholarship and insight. But those close to him remember most his humble service and love toward his students. He opened his home and table to their fellowship. He opened his wallet and gave liberally to provide meaningful times together, even taking his students to football games and fine restaurants. “Don’t be a tightwad” he would whimsically chide his pupils. He would host a “checker club” in his apartment, a time for games and snacks and mixing with the young seminarians. His greatness was demonstrated in service.

The supreme example of greatness exemplified in service is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the greatest heavenly Light, the “Sun of Righteousness” arising with “healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2).” Though He was God, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).” No greater service has ever been rendered on earth. The blood of Christ has done more good to more souls than we will ever fully know in this life. The hymnist put it well:

“When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o'er life's finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know -
Not till then - how much I owe.”

What about you, o my soul? As 2011 stands here before you…what goals have you set, what plans have you made, what resolutions have you written? Maybe the focus I should have is that lesson learned from the sun and stars, learned from men like Machen, and learned most fully from Christ Himself. "Give light on the earth."  Set thy soul on service! Help more, give more, love more, assist more, pray more in this coming year than ever before. This is my resolution…so help me God!