How Are Your Priorities?

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 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. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:6-11)

As a youngster, I had a problem with this portion of Scripture. I found myself thinking like a disciple. It did not seem unreasonable to sell expensive perfume and use the money to help the poor rather than waste it when something less expensive could have been used for the head anointing.

But then there is that other passage which rings in the background:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

Even when we are presumably at our most charitable we can mess up our priorities. More important than helping the poor is the glory and admiration we give to God in our words, actions, and gifts. Why else do we put stained glass windows in a church rather than the plain kind? Why else do we dress up for church when we can worship in our blue jeans? Like the woman with the oil, we know that God deserves the best.

So perhaps you are one of those who is discouraged in your service to the Lord. Maybe you are frustrated that you sit too many hours idle with no clients coming into the center. Perhaps in your concern for unborn children, you feel like a lonely island in your congregation. Maybe you are wrestling with the idea of doing more noble things. Which character do you identify with in the Bible reference: the disciple or the woman with the oil?

Service to the Lord in this ministry will not always be productive — it will not always be fun — it will not always bring the credit and admiration rightfully earned – it will not always be convenient, but it will always be important when the heart is right! Boards and committees must wrestle with the serious stewardship questions of pouring resources into any ministry. Individuals, however, must wrestle with their heart. If your service is to counsel 20 clients a day but your heart is not moving you to glorify God in every encounter, your work is less than pleasing. But if your heart is to glorify God and you have only one client a month, your service is to be treasured above all. The world will always want to measure things by results and statistics, but God measures things by the heart. That is why the woman’s sacrifice of expensive perfume upon Jesus was more praiseworthy that the outwardly commendable gesture of exchanging it for money and sharing it with the poor.

You will always have to wrestle in your heart with priorities in your life. But never forget that by a heart of faith even the smallest gesture is worthy of the highest praise.

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