Willing to Throw Your Money Away

10:29 AMHeather

Mary.  Sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Mary has indeed captured my imagination and taught me much over these last nine months that I've been studying how she lived her life. I was initially inspired to consider how she is the picture of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  We learn this love when we discipline ourselves to still our mind, thoughts, and activities in order to sit closely at the fit of Jesus and listen to his teachings (see Mary doing this in Luke 10:39-42).  

It's a sacred practice. And it's not something we carve out inordinate amounts of time to do, necessarily.  Instead, it's a rhythm to our day.  It's the ebb and flow of distractions and worries being pound into submission as we turn our attention from them to our Savior.  

This rhythm, in fact, is what I have come to see as the unforced rhythms of grace described in Matthew 11:28-30.  Learning God's grace that covers our shortcomings.  Realizing that grace.  Diving into that grace.  And understanding that if God's grace truly is scandalous in it's magnitude over my life then how can I not train myself to extend such grace to others?  

There, at the feet of Jesus during mundane seasons, he reveals his love and we express our love in return.  This prepares us to throw ourselves at his feet in seasons of turmoil.  Where we surrender our anger and questions and grieving as we cling to him--the Jesus who weeps.

Mary shows us where a life lived in this type of rhythm ends up.  Somehow, the day-to-day and repeated patterns of stilling ourselves before him as we abide with him leads to a life of extravagant worship.  It's a natural progression.  It's the reaping born of years of sowing the seeds of reading the word and running to God and learning his ways.  

You see, I've spent my life thus far admiring the lives of champions of the faith, seeing only this end result.  Mistaking the final product, so to speak, of acts of extravagant worship.  Using that as my plumb line and feeling so inadequate as I fall short.  Like a newlywed couple seeking to buy a house that's just like their parents--never taking into account the decades of hard work it took their parents to get there.  

Acts of extravagant worship are not born overnight.  They are not feats of superhuman followers of Christ.  They are not a goal worthy of sole attention.  Because then I am simply trying to run right to the finish line, disregarding the long path to get there.  

I can't compare myself to those who sell all their possessions and move to Africa.  Or the Christian refugees under threat of death in Iraq who paint crosses and the name of Jesus on their tents.  Those kinds of expressions of faith are grown by watering the soil of your heart with the Living Water. A life marked by extravagant worship is an extension of consistent days sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Here's my simplified "task list." I am to faithfully pursue Jesus by syncing my life in rhythms of grace.  In rhythms of staying my mind on Scripture and communicating with him through prayer and prostrating myself at his feet in days of tedious tasks and days of greatest grief.  

All of that ultimately fleshes out into a life of extravagant worship.  It's just a natural byproduct. It is not the trophy to grasp, as it is instead the result of a choosing a way of life.

Then, I might find myself as Mary...in the third time we see her at at the feet of Jesus.

Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus raised from the dead.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.  Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected.  "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year's wages.  He did not way this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.  "Leave her alone," Jesus replied.  "It was intened that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
John 12:1-7

Sometimes, when I read a passage, I picture it in my mind.  I wonder about unmentioned details.  Like this glimpse of a resurrected Lazarus dining with the Jesus who brought him back from the dead.  What did they talk about?  How did Lazarus interact with Jesus now?  

And there is Mary's sister Martha, serving the meal again, while Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus.  Did she grumble and ask Jesus to make her sister help her, as she did the first time she served Jesus in Luke 10:39-42?  How was her attitude marked by all that she had seen Jesus do in her very own life--raising her brother from the dead?  Was her troubled mind freed from anxiety and distractions now?  

And Mary.  Dear Mary.  Did she run from the kitchen, overcome with emotion toward her Jesus, and grab her perfume bottle on the way?  Or had she given it forethought, wondering how she might express her love for Jesus?  A love that had grown and expanded because she had learned the good portion of a life lived on the unforced rhythms of grace?

Regardless of these details--although I do intend to ask Mary all about it in glory someday--the point is this.  Mary was first seen at Jesus' feet listening to his teaching.  This led to her respond to her sorrow by throwing herself at the feet of Jesus to weep.  And now, she is overcome.  The result is extravagant worship. 

While Judas seemed to think that Mary was throwing her money away, Mary knew she was investing it for all of eternity. 

We see three key concepts here about a life marked by extravagant worship.

1. Mary willingly gave a costly offering.  It was expensive.  A year's wages.  I don't think she sat back with her check register and wondered if it was logical or advisable to be that extravagant towards Jesus.  Not at all.  Because the truth was the cost of the perfume meant nothing to her.  She had experienced the death and resurrection of her brother.  She saw God's heart for her when Jesus wept and his tears mingled with hers.  She had shared her suffering with him.  And she experienced the life that God can bring from what was dead in her life.  

When we see the miraculous movements of God in our lives--which, by the way, we see much more readily when we are trained ourselves to sit at his feet--then nothing else matters.  We realize true worth and surpassing value.  

No, Mary didn't think twice about offering up so much because she KNEW the One who sustained her.  Not just a fact knowledge, but also an experiential knowledge. 

When we Sabbath live, at the feet of Jesus, we know him in such a way that we see his value over all else.  And we are willing to give up all that we can in order to worship him.

2.  Mary ignored societal norms and expectations. She ignored the opinion of others.  When we Sabbath live at the feet of Jesus, we don't care if we aren't supposed to let down our hair or interrupt a meal in a room full of men.  Because only one opinion matters.  We are starving for the glory of God more than the approval of man.  We have learned to cease worshiping at the altar of man's approval and instead pour ourselves out for God alone. 

We see Jesus.  Only Jesus.

And we are eager to express our response to living in his grace.  Because his grace changes us.  And we are loosed from the binds of legalism and performance and worldly standards.  We learn to live freely and lightly with the yoke of simply sitting at Jesus' feet.  

3.  Somehow, God uses our natural response to experiencing his grace for the sake of his eternal purposes.  When we have disciplined ourselves to continually think on his love and believe the truest things about him, we are moved.  We respond to his grace.  And that response is our only intention.  But these responses are fulfilling a role in God's eternal plan.  In his sovereign hands, he uses our responses to complete a bigger picture.  

Mary was not intending to fulfill some particular role here.  She was just focused on expressing her love. Because she--in this room filled with his disciples--she was the only one who seemed to discern the significance of the moment.

She alone saw the opportunity to pour herself out in an expression of worship because she understood the magnitude and meaning of Jesus' presence. 

His own disciples missed it.  Martha missed it.

Even Lazarus missed it.

Think on that for a moment.

Mary learned something at the feet of Jesus that no one else in that room seemed to know.  She knew that time was fleeting and God had a plan and Jesus was worth it all.  

She didn't wake up that morning, setting out to do great things for God and be remembered for all of history.  She didn't wake up and check her task list and see, "anoint Jesus' body for burial."  CHECK.

She was simply living out her intimate relationship with Christ through extravagant worship.  And in so doing, she will be remembered for her role in the kingdom calendar.  Jesus said to his very own disciples that Mary was fulfilling the role she was intended to fulfill.

Are you setting out to do great things and be remembered--even if it's focused on God?

Or are you setting out to know Jesus so intimately that is shapes your assessment of what is worthwhile?

What treasures and costly offerings might God be calling us to surrender?  What expensive bottles of perfume might God be asking us to reevaluate as worthless in light of the value of gaining Christ?

God is calling all of us to shatter some habits and idols.  To break them and give them up so that we can worship him more extravagantly.  This is a cost he asks us to not even count, but to just do.

Just as he carried that cross.  For me.  For each of us.

Or, how about this.  Are you sitting at the table, with Jesus right in front you, maybe a member of a church or someone who refuses to set foot in a church--and you feel like something is missing?  Like maybe there must be more to life?  You feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied, if you were being really honest?  

Then maybe you just need to be willing to consider this question.  

If Jesus is real...if he died for my sins...if his grace and love cover all my faults and mistakes...then how do I respond?  

If he is a friend and Savior...the Son of God...the path to eternity...the hope for the hopeless...the answer to my questions...then what?  What is my response?  What am I going to do with that?   

Here's what Mary did.  She broke out expensive perfume, lowered herself to Jesus' dusty feet, poured out the costly offering, let down her hair, and wiped his feet with it.  

The beautiful truth is that a life poured out in extravagant worship and obedience brings a sweet fragrance.

It fills the house.

It's aromatic and obvious to those around you.

Intrigued by this word picture, I did some research.  I read a commentary that says that even as Jesus was beaten...even as he walked the streets to Golgatha...the aroma of this perfume likely lingered upon him.  

Because it was that potent.

As he was beaten, the aroma stirred.

As Mary walked the streets--watching her Jesus die--she, too, would have the scent remaining in her hair and lingering on her clothing.

This is the picture of the sweetness of a life of extravagant worship.

It impacts the stench of death.  It reaches the worst of times.

None of that was Mary's intent.  None of that entered her mind.

She just saw Jesus in her home and couldn't help but pour out the costly offering, ignoring those around her.  

Because all she saw was the worth of Jesus.  

And it was worth more to her than anything else she had.

Blog post #16 in a series: Sabbath Living: Sitting at the Feet of Jesus. 

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