Monday, April 18, 2011

Are We Giving Sacrificially to Jesus

Today's Reading Mark 14:1-11
The Plot to Kill Jesus

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, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

Jesus Anointed at Bethany
3 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. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 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. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 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.”

Judas to Betray Jesus
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

In Mark 14:1-11, we are given the story of a woman named Mary who arrived, uninvited, at Simon's house where Jesus was dining and came to him with a jar of expensive perfume worth a year's wages. Mary broke the jar open and poured out all of the perfume on Jesus' head and feet. Upon seeing this, those present rebuked her for her extravagance, for not being more strategic in her use of this valuable perfume. Mary's actions were out of love for the Christ, not an obligation to tithe her money.

How often in our lives today do we demonstrate sacrificial acts of love towards our Savior? For most of us, the answer is probably not that often. Our charitable giving is often more of an obligation or budgeting exercise that an act of love: 10% to the 401k, 10% to the college fund, and oh, 10% to our tithe. While we may be giving our resources to God, are we doing it because we love him or are we doing it as an obligation?

We have had the opportunity to travel throughout the world with World Vision, whose mission is to share the love of Jesus by addressing the root causes of poverty with a focus on children and women. Every time we visit families who have been touched by this work, they offer us extravagant gifts of gratitude. In Ghana, a goat and a bag of yams; in Mongolia, a meal of mare's milk and goat cheese from a family living in a tent; in Ethiopia, a traditional coffee ceremony and traditional clothing from a AIDS relief group; in Zambia, a parade and a meal in the home of four orphans and their grandmother. Each time, we are tempted to say "You shouldn't have, this wasn't necessary" just like those who chastised Mary. We so easily miss that these gifts aren't for us; they were gifts of gratitude to God. How quick are we to say, "Keep the goat, sell it in the market and use the money for something you need"? These people, living in desperate poverty understood what Mary did and felt compelled to make their own extravagant gift.

How can we learn from the acts of gratitude shown by the poorest of the poor? How can we make sacrificial gifts of love to Christ today? In Jesus' own words, Mary "did a beautiful thing," she "did what she could." Do we even do what we can or do we do so much less than that, just enough to hit our 10% line item? In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that whenever we do something for the "least of these" we do it for Him. We have the opportunity to show our love and gratitude towards God by demonstrating acts of sacrificial love to the "least of these," to those who need help, who need the love of Christ in their lives.

1. What would you say if someone you know emptied their 401k to care for the poor, or sold their car to support missionaries? Would you tell them that they were going a bit too far, that they didn't really need to give these up as long as they give at church each week?
2. Giving sacrificially looks crazy - as crazy as pouring a $75,000 bottle of perfume on someone's head. Are you ready to do what you can with what God has given to you; are you ready to give sacrificially to Jesus, the Savior who gave his life to save ours?

About the Authors
Kirsten and Andy Stearns have recently relocated to the San Ramon area from New York City. Kirsten is a Program Director at World Vision and Andy is a Director of Business Development with American Express and both have a passion for serving the poor around the world.

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