47 – Generosity and Greed for Money
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
- Passover: A festival to remember the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt
- Feast of Unleavened Bread: A week when the Jews did not eat bread which contained yeast, to remember the time they fled Egypt without time to bake bread with yeast.
- Stealth: Secret action
- Leper: Someone with a long-term infection affecting nerve endings and often contagious
- Nard: A plant from which ointment or oil can be extracted
- Anoint: To rub with ointment, especially when making someone king
What do you think of the woman’s actions?
How is her attitude different from the attitude of Judas?
Time is getting on. There are two days to go until the Passover. Two days before Jesus faces the most atrocious experience possible and sacrifices his life for us on the cross – the most valuable sacrifice ever. In this period, we receive two examples of what Jesus Christ was worth to different people.
The first example is the woman who comes to him with a flask of perfume whilst he was eating. She takes this expensive liquid and pours it over her King, filling the room with a beautiful smell. This action shows love and great respect to Jesus, and suggests that in some way she understands that Jesus is going to die for people like her. What makes it all the more amazing is that we learn that this ointment costs at least as much as a year’s wages. She didn’t hesitate to do this for Jesus – she saw that he was more valuable than anyone else and deserved the best she could offer.
The attitude of the others who were present is so different. They couldn’t understand why the woman was doing this, rather than giving the money to the poor. They see it as a waste and a total misuse of the money. Indeed, it is after this event that Judas goes to betray Jesus. We hear in another part of the New Testament that Judas was responsible for looking after the disciples’ money and that he stole some of it. Perhaps it was seeing this ‘waste’ of expensive ointment which caused him to betray Jesus in exchange for money. All he saw in Jesus was an opportunity to make himself rich and important, in any way possible.
We need to be careful with these words. It is very important that we behave responsibly with the money that God has given to us and not waste it. This was a special situation, with Jesus there amongst them. But now that he has left the earth, it is important that we follow the example of the woman, seeking to glorify him by ensuring we give the best that we have to Jesus and by looking after our brothers and sisters who are in need.
Why do you think that the woman behaved like this?
Have you got anything valuable? Would you be happy to sacrifice it for Jesus if necessary?
for freedom to be generous with all your belongings, glorifying God and looking after people in need.