Once upon a time the Son of God was invited to a snooty dinner party at a Pharisee’s home. Right into the middle of the festivities entered a woman of ill repute. She approached Jesus and started weeping at his feet.
Then she did the most astonishing thing.
She broke open an expensive alabaster box which contained an even more expensive vial of perfume. She began pouring the exquisite scented concoction all over this holy man who (somehow, she knew) was the answer to her need.
Others at the table were appalled—at the woman herself—sinful and unwelcome–and at this incredible act of hers. “Why this waste?” they cried! That perfume could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.
How could Jesus, thought to be a prophet, allow this shameful display of emotion by a such a sinful woman?
But Jesus hushed them with a story about two debtors, one who owed a little and one who owed a lot. The creditor forgave them both. Jesus asked, who do you think was more thankful? Who loved and appreciated more the creditor’s forgiveness? Simon, the host, answered correctly. The one forgiven the most is the one who would love the most.
Imagine the scene:
Then he [Jesus] turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:44-48).
A couple of months ago I joined a team that is serving children and teen girls who have been caught up and then rescued from the evil net of sex trafficking. As a new program providing 24-hour supervision and care, our staff-to-resident ratio is currently 7:1. Add to this all of the other expenses to run such an enterprise; it is unbelievably costly. And there is much uncertainty of outcome because of the complexity of the girls’ trauma. Will they stay long enough and engage in the healing process?
Some might say, “Why this waste?” How can you justify using so much resource for only a few?
The answer is that each of these girls matters so much to the Lord that he would die for any one of them. He paid everything. The Lord always prioritizes quality over quantity.
Why does God care so much? I don’t know. I’m not God.
But we can seek to imitate this God of the “beautiful waste,” even if we can’t explain the economics of it all. We can imitate this one who gives all of us second chances, third chances, hundredth chances!
In Jesus’ parable about an unfruitful fig tree, the gardener is fed up and tells the workers to cut it down. “Why should it even waste the soil?”
His worker pleaded with him, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9).
This is God’s patience with his creatures.
This is what motivates us to love these girls. Maybe if we bring them under special care, shelter, and enriching compassion, they can come alive again and produce fruit.
One more story about apparent waste.
King David was homesick and thirsty for water from his hometown, which had been overtaken by the Philistines. His three mightiest warriors broke through the enemy garrison and drew water from the well at Bethlehem.
Instead of gratefully drinking this precious water, he poured it on the ground, saying “God forbid that I should drink this!…This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it” (1 Chron. 11:16-19).
Why this waste? Why did these men “waste” such time and effort and risk so much to fetch a cup of water? Because they loved much.
And why pour it out? As a worship offering in gratitude for the loyalty of his brave friends.
Whatever it looks like, wherever it comes from, no expression of sacrificial love in his name is ever wasted.
Let us lavish our love on the Lord by loving and serving others with all of the strength and courage he provides.