Costly Perfume

Sunday, July 19, 2009
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Mark 14:3 – While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (NIV)

I have a favourite cologne. It's kept in a decorative glass container. Each time I've used it, it brings back memories of times past: special occasions, dinners with friends, dress-up times.

I've had this cologne for years. It is not a costly perfume, but I love how it smells. The other day, for no particular reason, I pulled it out, took the lid off, and breathed in a whiff. It was acrid. Hmm. I squirted some on my wrist: essence of rubbing alcohol. My cologne had gone bad. I was kicking myself that I hadn't used it more freely over time. In storing it up, hoarding it, I'd wasted it.

This morning, I read the story of the woman who poured out costly perfume on Jesus' head as an act of worship. Think of all the future times in which she could have used her perfume if she hadn't poured it out. In fact, others could have enjoyed the sweetness of it for years to come. She could have saved it up for times when she wanted to feel feminine, beautiful, pampered. Perhaps her perfume was a status symbol. As Jesus' disciples pointed out, she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. Was she just being impulsive in pouring it out? Why not just sprinkle a little of it on Jesus' head? Was Jesus worth her sacrifice? Yes. Would it have been better for her to spend this wealth of perfume in any other way? No.

The big question that came to my mind was this: Am I pouring out my life in order to worship and honour Christ? If not, why not? Am I hoarding my life, my time, for my own pleasures? Am I giving myself to others before giving myself to Christ?

What is the result of holding back? I threw away my little bottle of expired cologne. The bottle still looked good, but its contents were worthless. How I wish I'd used it daily, and used it up, rather than throwing it away.

I think the sense of smell is more closely connected with memory than any other sense. It makes me smile to think of the irony that the woman who poured out her scent will be remembered forever, not for any fragrance, but for her generosity to Christ. I want to be like her.

Prayer: Lord, You are worthy of all honour. Help us to pour out our lives for You. Please forgive us for the times when we've withheld things from You — our dreams, our time, our finances, even our children. We trust You. Thank You for giving Your life for us. Amen.

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Kathleen Ageton <>
Wailuku, Hawaii, USA

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