Today Pastor Choi talks about the nature of giving: Giving is to the Lord Jesus first before it is to the Church. Giving must come from our heart. Giving is determined by our understanding of who Jesus is. It is also determined by how much we love Jesus not by how much money we have.
Following is a summary of his sermon:
Give Your Heart to Jesus
Mark 14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”
3 While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Once a year, as pastor of the church, I preach on the nature of giving to the LORD in conjunction with our church-wide stewardship campaign. Today is the day that I speak about our giving to the Lord. Our giving is to the Lord Jesus first before it is to the Church or it is to help the needy. Our giving must come from our heart. Our giving is determined by our understanding of who Jesus is. It is also determined by how much we love the Lord not by how much we have in our possessions. This morning we will think about our attitude in giving through the story of a woman who gave her heart and gave all she had to the Lord Jesus in worship.
What’s happening in the story? It was the week of the Passover and three days before Jesus was crucified. He was staying at a house in Bethany [a couple of miles SE of Jerusalem]. Then, a lady entered the room where Jesus was reclining. Standing next to Him, she broke a vial of very expensive perfume made of pure nard and poured the entire bottle over Jesus’ head. Indeed it was very expensive in those days. [e.g. Horace –Roman poet during the time of August–offered to send Virgil a whole barrel of his best wine in exchange for a phial of nard. “Though nard is now rare on the shelves of the western perfumer, its name stood for centuries as an evocation of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden” http://www.biblefragrances.net/nard.html].
When the disciples saw what was happening before their eyes, their jaws dropped. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Immediately, a clash of convictions took place in silence and an argument ensued among those in the room on her act of giving; whether it was a waste or not.
Three groups of people were in the room: the lady (the giver), Jesus (the recipient) and the disciples (the onlookers). Let’s think about them one by one.
The onlookers: “Why this waste?”–that was the outcry of Jesus’ disciples when they saw what the lady was doing with that very expensive vial of perfume—worth a worker’s annual wage (in today’s money it’s about $30,000). Actually, the literal translation of “Why this waste?” would be “Why in the world has this happened?” or “A total waste!”
The disciples got indignant. They were very upset, because their conviction was violated. Their conviction deep down in their hearts was this: Jesus doesn’t deserve such a devotion and honor. He isn’t worth that much. He is our teacher and worthy of our respect, but not this much. Maybe, He is worth of a drop or two of the perfume, but not the entire bottle.
That’s why their jaws dropped. Soon, they raised their voices and rebuked her. They put her to shame, because they didn’t approve the way she used her own precious possession. Perhaps, they would have had no problem if she had used it for her dowry in marriage or even for her own burial. However, when it was used for Jesus, they had a big problem and exclaimed, “What a waste!” “It could have been sold and given to the poor!” They truly shamed her big time. That’s where Jesus comes in.
The recipient: “Leave her alone,” intervened Jesus. He reminded His disciples and the lady that her giving was not a waste at all. Actually, He continued, it was a beautiful thing she did for Him for His burial ahead of time. He implied that all the disciples a week later wouldn’t be able to embalm their Master’s dead body. Come to think of it, Jesus was right, because none of these disciples were able to do so with Jesus’ body, because He was risen. Only this lady did.
Now, if you only focus on the words such as “waste” or “helping the poor” you may miss the whole point. Here, Jesus is least concerned about the waste or the best ways to spend one’s material possessions. Nor does He discourage us not to help the poor. By the way, He is the one who cares about the poor so much so that He opened His Sermon on the Mount with the declaration that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor. He proclaimed the Gospel to the poor. Furthermore, when it comes down to waste, He is the one who knows what it means not to waste God’s given resources. Remember His story of feeding the 5000 people with five loaves and two fish? After everyone was fed, Jesus commanded to collect all the left overs so that the food would not go wasted. He surely knows what waste is and what is not.
Jesus points out one thing very important to all—the lady, to His disciples and to us the readers of the Bible: who He is as the recipient of our giving and devotion. Do you know who Jesus is? He is more than a good moral teacher. He is more than a master who deserves respect. He is one of the triune God whom we worship and serve: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is equal to God. He is eternal as God. He is the God incarnate—God in human flesh. Unlike any other human beings, He is sinless. He has the authority to forgive sins in the world (yours and mine). He is our God and Savior. Therefore, He is worthy of our adoration, praise, worship, and our best! He deserves our all! That’s what’s happening in the story. Knowing who Jesus was, the lady gave her heart, her best, and all she had to Jesus. Let’s think about the lady the giver this time.
The giver: to the lady, nothing was too precious or too costly for Jesus. Nothing was wasted on Jesus, because He was her God and her Lord. That’s why she gave her heart and didn’t hold anything back from Him.
Think about the perfume one more time. Scholars believe that there are two possibilities for the perfume in her possession: it was a family heirloom kept either for dowry or for her own burial. But, she gave it up for Jesus. I must say it was more than monetary sacrifice. It was the total surrender of her personal plans, ambitions, and aspirations. That’s what happens in true worship. Surrender all to Jesus. Romans 12:1 [present your bodies as a living sacrifice]. He is worthy of nothing but the best from us, not a scrap here and there. Not a divided attention here and there.
Do you surrender all to Jesus? Do you give your best to Him or just put one hour in on Sunday mornings? Do you give Him all your heart or only a piece of it and keep the rest with you? It all depends who Jesus is to you.
When you worship the Lord with all your heart and mind, you may experience sharp criticisms and angry glances from the onlookers. That’s exactly what happened to the lady when she broke the vial and gave her heart for Jesus’ sake.
Even today people don’t change and still criticize the true worshipers of Jesus. When you enthusiastically worship the Lord, when you give all yours to Jesus, the onlookers in worship may give you a hard time. Even shame you.
Remember what really matters, though: Jesus’ praise trumps all the criticisms of the bystanders. Therefore, don’t be afraid to offend people with your love for Jesus. Only focus on pleasing the Lord. Only worship the Lord in spirit and truth. That’s what really counts before the Lord.
One more thing. In today’s story, I can almost smell the fragrance of that expensive perfume that permeated the entire room. I am sure it lingered there for some time. Think of the lady who must have carried the sweet smell for some time on her clothes wherever she went afterwards. People would exclaim to her saying, “Whatever happened to you, you smell good! Where have you been?” She would reply, “Today I was with Jesus and gave my heart to Him in worship!”
God calls you to be the fragrance of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15). What smell do you give forth? The fragrance or the stink? Your being a sweet smell to the world begins with your heart entirely given to Jesus. When you worship the Lord Jesus with all your heart and mind, you will carry the fragrance of Jesus to the world.
Remember the gift the lady gave to Jesus. It was much more than the expensive perfume. That day she gave her heart. It impressed Jesus so much that He commanded His disciples to spread her story along with the gospel—the story of worship and adoration. Give your heart to Jesus today and every day in worship. He will remember your devotion.