Generosity. Money. Tithing. Serving. Stuff.
All are things we have opinions on but few pastors move into the realm of preaching about them. I know when I started Revolution Church, preaching about money or asking for money in campaigns was difficult for me. Not because I was worried about what others would think, but because I didn’t have the healthiest relationship to money and stuff. Truth be told, I loved money and stuff a little too much when we started 5 years ago.
In John 12, we see how we are supposed to think about money, stuff and generosity through two women: Mary and Martha.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. -John 12:1-2
Mary and Martha put on a dinner to honor Jesus. Martha however is not at the table, but serving. It is interesting that John points this out, but I think he does so because Martha is serving, worshiping and honoring Jesus as best as she knows how. She is using her gifts, using the talents God gave her to honor Jesus. Often, we want someone else’s gifts, someone else’s talents. We wish we could have a more upfront role when God has designed us to be in the background. We wish we had the boldness someone else has, but God designed you the way you are so that you can honor and worship him that way.
If you don’t use your gifts, everyone loses.
Mary however is not cooking or serving in this way, she honors Jesus in another way.
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” -John 12:3-8
Mary takes perfume that is valued at 1 years salary, this is not a simple generous gift. This was her security.
There is no mention of a husband, so if Mary was single, this was her fall back plan for a rainy day. This was her retirement, her nest egg. This was the ball game. She put it all on the line to honor and worship Jesus. Was it crazy? Yes. Did it honor Jesus? Yes.
Now, does this mean you and I should give everything we make in a year away? Maybe. God calls people to give away things they aren’t even sure they can afford.
What it shows us though is the relationship we should have with our money, stuff and talents.
For Mary and Martha, they didn’t worship or honor Jesus to get something from him. They didn’t give so that God would give back to them. They did this out of gratitude. In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This was their gratitude for how Jesus has worked in their lives.
When we have a proper relationship with our money, stuff, calendar and relationships, we are motivated by gratitude, because of what God has given to us.