The Giver and the Taker

Around this time of the year in AD 31, two people made choices that forever marked their legacy.

A few days before Passover, when Jesus was in Bethany at Simon’s house (for Jesus had healed Simon of his leprosy), a woman came with an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil and poured it on Jesus’ head (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:38; John12:3).

But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, and “they rebuked her harshly” (Mark 14:5).  Specifically, “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 say 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” (John 12:4-6).

But Jesus stands up for her.  “Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me . . . She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).  Jesus tells her, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50).

Meanwhile, “one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ so they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over” (Matt 26:14-16).

How ironic, that this woman, who was known to be a great sinner, sacrificed to honor Jesus, while Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, betrayed Jesus to receive 30 pieces of silver.

One looked for opportunities to give; the other looked for opportunities to gain. One sought to honor Jesus; the other sought to betray Him.

Which one are we?  Do we think about what to give to Jesus, how we can honor Him?  Or is our preoccupation primarily with what we can gain and receive?

As we think, so we are.  Our hearts reveal our true character.

The woman went home in peace, forgiven and affirmed.  Her story is recorded in all four gospels as a testimony to her faith and Jesus’s faithfulness.  Judas’ end is tragically well-known.

When the little seeds of selfishness spring up in our hearts, we must immediately ask God to root them out – and to inspire in us a love that seeks first to give than to receive.

Father God, please forgive me if I have been a Judas today. Help me to think not of my own gain but to focus my thoughts and affections on how to please You.  You are worthy of all worship. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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