Jesus Anointed at Bethany6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Again context is very important. This story follows Jesus railing against the pharisees and priests and powers that be in Jerusalem. Jesus tells parables about the powerful destroying those that stand against their oppressive policies, and about the judgment where we are called into account for how we treat the poor and the marginalized. Then we see a quick passage that tells us the countdown to His death has begun, and then to this story.
In this story we have a woman that finds in Jesus a man that has loved and accepted her, that has shown her the light, the way and is the very fullness of truth. And she shows her love and adoration in an extremely generous manner. Then the very people who listened to Jesus talk about the care for the poor, and how we must stand against the oppressive powers are shocked at the waste. It doesn't seem to make sense with what Jesus just said. Why don't we use that perfume to feed poor people (notice there is an understanding at least among Jesus disciples that this woman was one of their community, and part of their common purse collective, and expected some accountability). Jesus says the poor you will always have with you, and I will deal with that statement in a later post, but then explains, "she wanted to do a generous act towards me, and it will most likely be her last chance to do so as I am going to be murdered soon, its a good thing she did"
The moral of the story is simply this: we can sometimes get so caught up in all the right stuff, and doing all the right things, that we forget people and their importance. All of our veganism, new monasticism, incarnational mission, activism and non violence can all be derailed when we forget that its the people that matter. Its people over principles. Sometimes we need to throw a party and waste money that can go other places... because its good to celebrate a person, a relationship, a milestone. Sometimes we can spend a bit too much money to show some one we love them. We don't need to worry that "oh you are buying into that evil consumeristic mindset that says you show your love by buying something". Check your heart, don't use this as an excuse, it should be an exception not the rule, but guys... love extravagantly, enjoy, don't become bitter curmudgeons.
Next I will tell a few stories about how this has worked out in our lives and then I will talk about the statement the poor you will have with you always.