“Why This Waste?”
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.