Recently I read the story in Mark 14, of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Although it was worth about ten months' wages, she kept none of it back. Breaking the alabaster vial, that not a drop would be retained, it was poured in an instant upon the Lord's head.
One can imagine the gasps from the other disciples. "Why has this perfume been wasted?!" they exclaimed jealously. "Think how many poor people could have benefited from the price of its sale--and here it is, wasted on one man!"
But how pointedly the Savior rebukes them. "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me." And he tells them that not only will this woman's act of worship be remembered for all eternity, but that wherever the gospel is preached, throughout all the ages of time, it will be remembered. I wonder how they felt when they realized that their foolish valuation of her worship, would be recorded right next to the story of her devotion.
They called it waste. Why wasn't the value of the perfume transposed into good deeds? Jesus said, in effect, "She HAS done a good deed--to Me."
I wonder how often we make such errors. Five missionaries are killed for the sake of Christ in Ecuador--and we hear, "What a waste!" Borden of Yale, one-time millionaire, dies at age 25 in Egypt, where he was studying Arabic in order to preach the gospel to Muslims in China. What a waste! A young, intelligent man refuses a job that would offer him good money and prestige, because it would require too much of his time, time that could be spent in worshipful service to the Lord. Why this waste?! A woman gives up her budding career in order to make a happy home and raise children for the Lord. Why this waste?! Yes, there is much waste among Christians, from the human perspective. Waste of time, waste of life, waste of opportunities for self-advancement, waste of money. But there is another, more subtle, kind of deception into which I find myself falling sometimes.
"Why this waste?" whispers the evil one, when I resolve to take time out from a busy day to worship the Lord and study His Word. "You could be doing some kind of service, you know." "Why this waste?" he says again, when we give up precious day off to remember the Lord weekly. "You know how much you need to be able to sleep in....it would help prepare you to serve the Lord better, of course." "Why this waste?" when believers gather to pray. "Think how much you could get done for the Lord in that time!"
And yet the distinction that the Lord pointed out to the disciples is so clear. It is the "good deed to Me," that is most precious to Him. Worship seems to work itself out in service, but all service is not automatically worship. And it is worship, and enjoyment of our relationship with the Lord, that He most desires.