What is there about human nature, that causes us to keep the best for ourselves? Even children instinctively grab the largest cookie. For though we all have altruistic moments, altruism is not natural for us. And that’s why the Alabaster jar accounts of in the Gospels set our spirits soaring. Deep inside, we know it’s what we need.
For the alabaster jar lifts us to the place of wanting to move past ourselves.
In Mark 14 we find the Lord once again in Bethany, he frequently stopped there visiting Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, where honor and welcome always awaited him. But this time, so near his betrayal and death, we must follow him to a banquet prepared by Simon the leper, likely healed by Christ.
“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.”Mark 14:3 WEB
Whether this woman had prepared her offering beforehand, we don’t know. Perhaps she had heard and understood the Lord’s talk of death. And wanted to give her very best while she could.
Or perhaps on impulse she had rushed to get her jar, convinced she must do this one thing. Certain that nothing was too good for the Lord. And so taking the precious jar, nearly as costly as the ointment it contained, she broke it and poured the costly perfume on his precious head.
[Image by Woman with flask by LumoProject.com; all rights reserved, for educational use only.]
Others present complained about her act, and we sometimes have the same tendencies. For part of us wants to applaud such generous acts of devotion while another part tends to scold.
“There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.’ And they scolded her.”Mark 14:4-5 WEB
Part of us wants to give our all, but it ever battles with our common sense or religious self-rightousness.
And so we join in with the scolders.
“Just pour it out? What a waste! She should have used it for the poor.” Implying with self-righteous superiority that we would have done better.
Or we allow our common sense to deter us.
“Not now,” we tell ourselves. “Not until the children are grown, or the mortgage paid, or retirement comes.” And we effectively silence the Spirit’s urging and keep our alabaster jar tightly sealed. Or perhaps we choose to use it for things we don’t really need, and figuratively speaking pour it out on our own head.
Not that it’s wrong to supply our own and others’ needs, save for a rainy day, or even enjoy treats and special things. But we must always strive to hear and obey whatever the Lord asks.
Had this woman followed such reasoning she would not have honored or blessed Christ with her gift.
Perhaps that jar was all she had. So she could have thought, “I should wait until I’ve got more money. Then I could give to the Lord and help the poor too. Or I should wait until I’m better situated. You never know what tomorrow might bring.”
But had she waited, it might have been too late.
So the alabaster jar remains as an everlasting reminder for us to give what we can, while we can.
To decide, when opportunity presents itself, whether we will break open our own alabaster jar (whatever wealth of blessings the Lord has given us) and give it to the Lord. Or whether we will hoard the bigger cookie for ourselves, while giving him the leftovers.
Just like the woman in Simon the leper’s home, we must come to the realization that the One who has freed us of our spiritual leprosy is worthy of even the most extravagant gifts. He is worthy of the very best we have. He is worthy of our all.
So let’s give our best, and not just the leftovers, while we can!
First image by LumoProject.com from FreeBibleImages.org; all rights reserved, educational use only.