- Rodney Lee Mills
A Beautiful Thing
They say you can tell a lot about what someone values by looking at how and where they spend two things: their money and their time. In this blog, I would like to focus on the topic of money.
So how do you spend your money? Do you spend it as soon as it comes in? Do you save a little? Where do you spend your money? Does it all go to paying off debt and bills? Do you use it to help others? Does it control you? These are all important questions we should ask ourselves. Everyone’s situation is different so the need to ask yourself these questions and the answers themselves can be insightful but it is important to note that there is nothing wrong with money. But what we can’t forget is that money becomes unhealthy when it has control over us.
I would like to use an illustration from the life of Jesus that describes His view of money and in this same illustration, describe how one’s person’s view (which was counter to that of Jesus) could have prevented numerous God ordained moments from occurring. My hope is that you will begin to see money in a whole new light. Maybe you will even see that your view of money has affected your life and that of those around you in a negative way and begin to make a change today.
In the Bible, the book of Mark 14:1-9, it says, “1 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
A PINT OF PURE NARD
This is a really good passage to review because it gives us insight to the heart of God in regards to how He views money. The perfume used in this passage is derived from a flowering plant typically found in the Himalayas. Because of where it is found and how it is produced, it is very expensive (more than a year’s wages). So to put this into context, the average wage in the United States is around $50,000. Despite the cost of the perfume, Jesus says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Imagine what would happen today if someone used $50,000 worth of perfume in a blink of an eye? Imagine that person being a religious figure? No one would argue that this person should be ridiculed by the media, social media and the public square yet Jesus called it a “beautiful thing.” This should give us all pause. As we dig deeper into this passage, other revelations are revealed.
If you are not familiar with the story of Jesus, Judas Iscariot was the disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. His betrayal ultimately led to Jesus’s crucifixion. Since then, the name “Judas” is synonymous with the word traitor. What you may not know is that Judas was the treasurer for Jesus’s ministry. Imagine that, a person as untrustworthy as Judas was placed in charge of the ministry’s money. Judas’s love of money was evident in this passage because he was one of the main individuals who chastised the woman for “wasting” the perfume. In his mind, it would have been better served by selling it and using the proceeds to give it to the poor. The truth was that Judas was greedy and his greed came out when his economy came into conflict with the economy of God. This ultimately led to the greatest betrayal in human history. Jesus says that we cannot serve both God and money and for Judas, he consistently put money before God. This love of money eventually led to his death by suicide.
In verse seven of this passage, Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” This verse speaks to “discernment.” Jesus says that we will always have the poor with us. This is something that we often glean over probably because we don’t want to accept that we will never eradicate poverty no matter how much money and effort we throw at it. But Jesus also says, “you can help them any time you want” which encourages us to continue our pursuit to do all that we can. But having a discerning heart when it comes to our financial expenditures is what I believe this part of the passage is highlighting. This was a “special moment” that would be with Jesus until He took his last breath. No one could see this but Jesus.
A BEAUTIFUL THING
Jesus says, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” You are probably still caught up with the fact that about $50,000 in today’s money was poured over Jesus and He called it a “beautiful thing.” Don’t worry, you are not alone. But the one thing I can’t help but see in this act is “love.” When that act was done, it was an act of total unequivocal “love.” Let me share with you my perspective of this event and future events that made the breaking of the alabaster jar over Jesus a “beautiful thing.”
Betrayal of Judas:
After the Passover meal, Jesus walked with His disciples towards the Mt. of Olives. There, Jesus was betrayed by Judas at Gethsemane. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (an act that of course symbolizes love). This of course was anything but love. But when Jesus was betrayed with a kiss, He could still smell “love.” Jesus was later arrested and brought before the high priest, Caiaphas.
Jesus before Pilate:
After Jesus went before the high priest, it was decided that He would be handed over to Pontius Pilate (prefect of the Roman province of Judaea). This story is filled with struggle as Pilate seeks to let go of Jesus yet because of the schemes of the religious leaders, the crowd asks for Jesus’s death by yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!" Once again, Jesus faced betrayal. This time, it was from the very people He came to die for. Yet in the midst of the rejection and the betrayal, Jesus smelled “love.”
The cat of nine tails:
Before Jesus was crucified, he was beaten and tortured. He was beaten with the cat of nine tails which is a whip with several strands (typically nine which is where it gets its name). These strands were weighted with lead balls or in some cases pieces of bone. The purpose of the whip was to rip into the flesh and inflict extreme pain. Jesus was held down where he was whipped over and over again. I could not help but think that in the midst of the extreme pain and torture, Jesus could still smell “love.”
Simon of Cyrene
Jesus was then forced to carry His cross to Golgotha where He was to be crucified. As you can imagine, the pain and wounds inflicted upon Him by the cat of nine tails made carrying the cross nearly impossible. After falling numerous times, Simon of Cyrene was asked to carry the cross for Jesus the rest of the way. In the theater of my mind, I see Simon looking at Jesus as he took the cross from Him. In the midst of the struggle and the pain, even Simon could smell “love.”
Once Jesus arrived at Golgotha, His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. Already with the crown of thorns upon His head and the large amounts of blood already lost from the previous beatings, I imagine that He did not smell blood or death. Instead, Jesus could smell “love.”
The thief on the cross:
Jesus was crucified in between two criminals. Once ridiculed Him while the other asked for forgiveness. Jesus said to that thief, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” In that moment, that thief experienced joy and salvation. He also could smell “love.”
Jesus’s last breath:
In John 19: 29-30, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. When Jesus took His last breath, I could not help but think that as He took in that last gasp of air, Jesus smelled “love.”
As I processed these last moments of Jesus’s life, I could not help but think that the $50,000 jar of perfume wasn’t enough. I could now see why Jesus called the act that everyone ridiculed as a “beautiful thing.” Through His pending torture, betrayal, and pain; Jesus would still know love because of the beautiful thing done for Him.
For me, this put into perspective how I should value money. So often I look at its use as black and white. Use it for good and not for evil. But what about those things that are not so black and white? Can a good act done for selfish reasons still be a good thing? By this illustration, no. It’s in moments like this that we need to have discernment. The discernment to know how money can be used to create other “beautiful moments.”
So what thoughts are going through your mind? Are there steps you can take to better use your money? Do you feel that money still controls you to a point that you can miss seeing opportunities to create beautiful moments? Understand that God does not want you to be poor and He doesn’t mind if you are rich. He just wants you. In order for Him to have us, we have to have a proper perspective of money and put Him first.