A story illustrating my understanding of the woman with the expensive perfume from yesterday.
My wife was having a birthday party for her fortieth. Our dear friend and partner in ministry while we lived in Australia decided to conspire with me to surprise her with a visit for her party. So he booked a flight from Oz, took time off of work, and flew all the way to Long Beach to be with my wife as we celebrated her life.
But why such waste? The money he spent could have been used to care for the poor. He could have donated to the local shelter in her honor, he could have given the money to Gatehouse in St. Kilda who loves and cares for the prostitutes on the streets there. And what about that incredible carbon foot print he left? Why would you do that to our planet?
These are actually all good questions. We must in fact wrestle with these questions. But... if we come to the realization that a party to celebrate the life of someone we love is important, then we throw a party, and rejoice in that. The truth is we can get so caught up in doing the right things, standing for the right things, that we forget to just enjoy those special times in life. What the world does not need is another bunch of bitter, unhappy activists. What we need is a balanced community that is motivated by love of others, with a priority towards the poor and marginalized, but not at the neglect of each other.
In the story of the female disciple, who made this opulent display of affection we must grapple with our tendency to "know" what we are to do. But the truth is, as I said before, we must always put love at the top of our list of priorities as we struggle to make sense of things.
Let me again however state that this is meant to warning that we should not get so focused on principles that we neglect people, not an excuse to live it up.