God is generous, and as Douglas Wilson says, “generosity is the base line” of a Christian life. After reading what Pastor Wilson wrote, I took a moment to repent of my own covetous actions in light of this truth and then I gave a hearty amen to what I read. But, God was not done with me on this point, and probably won’t be for a very long time. In light of what I read on Wilson’s blog, a little pericope in the Gospel of Matthew poked me in the brain.
Matthew 26:6-16 is one narrative, but unfortunately most Bible translations separate the Mary incident from the Judas incident which makes a casual reading seem like two separate stories. However, Matthew is no shlub, and he writes with purpose. The purpose here is contrast. Simply take a look. Jesus is in the house of a leper (would you do that?) which exhibits extraordinary generosity. Jesus, at this point, is a very well known rabbi and most likely could have sat at the table of some rather affluent “clean” to-do types. But he stooped from heaven to be born in a dirty manger, and again stoops to eat with the unclean. Lavish.
Then we have Mary (see John 12:3) come into the home and break a flask of very expense ointment anointing Jesus before His death (v.12). This ointment would have brought in more than 300 days’ wages, which could give some credence to the disciples indignation toward this silly woman. “Why this waste?” they exclaim. Their thought was that the money the perfume could have brought would be such a generous portion to the poor, why waste it? Think about all the good that could be done, but instead this woman is wasteful. So they think. As one author notes, “their apparent piety masks their lack of spiritual perception.” Shlubs.
Then we have Judas, apparently still rather indignant, going to the chief priests and becoming a mercenary of sorts, a conspirator. He gets paid to setup the death of the Messiah, he gets paid 30 pieces of silver (don’t spend it all in one place, kid).
Here is the contrast. Mary responded to the lavish grace of God with her own lavishness and everyone but God thought it was waste. Judas responded to God’s grace with a stingy greed, he chose 30 pieces of silver over eternal life with uncounted riches. Mary saw the lavishness of God and responded in kind. Judas saw the lavishness of God and despised it for his own greedy gain.
Here is the point. Our giving to God ought to be abundant and joyful, full of gratitude for His abundant giving. We are to give graciously, even against our “better” judgment, because we are called to be imitators of God. We are not to use Christ to gain meager treasures. Mary saw the worth and value of the King and gave her most prized possession back to Him. Judas sold the King.