So here’s a random mission’s reflection. I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to join the conversation here but this has been in my head for the last few days…
In mission’s and ministry in general, we are trained to constantly ask questions about what is wise and strategic; especially when it comes to the stewardship of money, time or other resources. We are careful because there are about a ker-jillion reasons that testify to the wisdom of such thinking. We truly do not want to create unhealthy dependencies nor take away people’s dignity. We truly do want to help people “up” not just help them “out” by being smart in how we minister and not just passionate. We are aware of the book “When Helping Hurts” and others like it which have been part of this conversation on how to do ministry with your head and not just your heart. BUT…
And I do mean BUT…I have also become aware of another problematic byproduct or perhaps an unintended side-effect of some of the warnings and information that we’ve been given about how to do missions and ministry. I call it the “Paralysis of Generosity”. I define it as “the effect of being inundated with so much information about the failures and incorrect ways of being generous or kind in missions and ministry that people just don’t do anything since they aren’t sure what they can do that won’t be criticized.” Now don’t worry. I am not about to argue for irresponsible spending sprees or reckless, uncalculated giving to the poor or any other destructive method that we know for sure has proven to be dangerous or counter-productive in the past. However, I think at times we need to balance the scales or be reminded that there may be another scale altogether that matters to Jesus too.
So, I read this story about Jesus getting anointed at Bethany in Mathew 26:6-13 (See also John 12:1-8) and something jumped out at me that I had never noticed before.
Just days or hours away from his death on the cross, the culmination of his work and ministry on earth, we find Jesus hanging out with close friends at the house of Simon the Leper. Then out of nowhere this woman comes in and begins to pour perfume on Jesus. We don’t know if Jesus knew her from before or if anyone knew her for that matter. We don’t know if she was already there or if she just walked in to the house. We don’t know her name, where she was from or where she went afterward but we do know what she did (Matthew 26:6-13). And as unusual as it was, it turns out that what she did was a symbolic act to prepare Jesus for burial and it also created a lot of conversation among the disciples. It seems that the perfume the woman used was extremely expensive. It was actually worth about 300 Denarii which is equivalent to a year’s wages in Jesus’ day. Today it might be like paying $25,000 to $50,000 or more for just one bottle of perfume or cologne! Yikes!!!
Now I can’t imagine owning a bottle of perfume or cologne worth that amount, much less pouring out on someone. However, if there was ever anyone worthy of that kind of treatment I think we all can agree that it would’ve been Jesus. Though in that moment the disciples were not thinking that way. In fact they were asking questions similar to what I have been trained to ask. Like, “Is that good stewardship?” or “Is that the most strategic way to use that resource?” I totally understand because I’m there every day, sometimes several times a day but must admit that I absolutely love how the Lord responds:
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Isn’t that refreshing!!! Jesus didn’t agree with the disciples at all, even though they made good sense and had solid logic. Even though a lot more people could’ve been really helped with the money from selling that perfume. Jesus just stops and calls this act “a beautiful thing” and then he goes on to say much more, including making a promise that wherever the Gospel is preached this story will be told in memory of her! I love it! It’s a reminder to us all really. This is a lesson that so many are prone to forget these days including myself. Here it is…
Strategy and stewardship are critical and important and should always be in our minds but there is another critical category that we must also make room for called “things that are just beautiful to Jesus”.
These are the things that are unforgettable to Jesus and thus he wants others to remember them as well. Radical love, devotion and sacrifice for Jesus Christ are too beautiful to not remember and we should never be afraid to show them to Jesus. Even if Jesus is the only one that understands and approves, we need not be afraid. Even though we want to be strategic and wise and careful in our ministries we cannot afford to forget that there is this other category for “beautiful things” that Jesus loves to see too and it is Jesus that we live for!
May the Lord lead you in your strategy and in the romance of your love for him may you also still surprise him with the beautiful things as well!