Read John 12:1–11.
Imagine you’re in church, and the offering plate is being passed. As the worship band plays, you happen to glance over and notice the other people in your row placing their envelopes, checks, and folded up cash. But when the plate reaches the man seated next to you, you see him pull the car key from his pocket. With a bright smile on his face, he drops it into the plate.
As the plate is passed to you, you look down. You recognize the insignia on the key. It’s a luxury brand, and the fancy fob tells you it’s a newer model, easily worth more than you earn in a year. Thoughts and questions fill your mind so quickly that you forget to place your own offering into the plate.
What would you think if you saw someone give a year’s salary to the Lord? What words would come to your mind? Extravagant? Over the top? I imagine that when Mary poured out that bottle of pure nard on Jesus’ feet, these sorts of thoughts filled the room, along with the fragrance of the perfume. Judas speaks up, upset that the perfume can no longer be sold and the money given to the poor. Of course, John lets us in on Judas’ little secret—he’s skimming off the top—but Judas does bring up a valid question: Does it matter how “useful” our gifts to God are?
The truth is, every gift we offer to the Lord is meager. Jesus deserves not just one year’s salary, but every year’s salary. And why should we stop with our money and possessions? Considering what God has done for us, He deserves our everything. There is no hour in our day, no talent we possess, and no opportunity that comes our way we shouldn’t hand over to Him with exuberant gratitude. It all belongs to Him anyway.
From one point of view, our offerings to God are sort of silly. He doesn’t need anything. In the Old Testament, He didn’t need the blood of goats and bulls and lambs. He wasn’t sitting on His throne hoping someone would bring Him a steak. Likewise, Jesus didn’t need His feet to smell of expensive nard. Our offerings to God aren’t so much about their usefulness as they are about our hearts.
By giving sacrificially, we declare to God, a watching world, and our own adulterous hearts that we value the Lord above all other gods and before all earthly pursuits. We proclaim to heaven, “I trust You with my life, my security, and my wellbeing! I give You my everything, and I want Your presence in my life more than any other good thing!”
Mary’s bottle of pure nard was likely a family treasure—a bit of security in case times ever got tough. If Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were ever in desperate financial need, they could sell the perfume in order to survive whatever came their way. It was like having money in the bank. When Mary pours out the family’s nest egg on Jesus’ feet, she is transferring her security to Him. If she ever finds herself in desperate need now, she won’t look to a valuable possession for rescue; she’ll look to Jesus.
Our gifts, large or small, or all minuscule in comparison to the gifts God gives us. That’s why the only fitting endeavor for a Christian is to offer himself as “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), so that the aroma of his gratitude might continually rise up to heaven as a scent more precious that the most expensive perfume.
The heart of worship is giving God glory with our lives. It’s choosing to step into the truth of who He really is and who we really are. It’s acknowledging our complete and total dependence on Him—and rejoicing in that dependence, because He is so very good.