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Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? A God-honoring offering
What constitutes a God-honoring offering? If indeed the desire of our heart is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with our time, our talents, and our treasures, then the Biblical basis for a God-honoring offering is found in the 12th Chapter of John’s Gospel. The text unfolds a few days before Golgotha in a private home in Bethany. The little village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, can still be visited to this very day. The Lord Jesus was reclining at the table with His disciples, His friend Lazarus, and others. Mary enters the room and brings to Him a God-honoring offering. She kneels at His feet, breaks open the alabaster box, and pours it out upon His feet. Then she wipes His feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume fills the room as tension fills the air. Judas is quick to rebuke her. But the Lord Jesus honored her. He blessed her gift, and Matthew, Mark and John all recorded it for posterity so that we might know what truly constitutes a God-honoring offering.
Four ingredients in a God-honoring offering leap from the pages of Scripture into our hearts as we read the text. A God-honoring offering is precious to us. Mary gave something very costly. It was not a token gift. It was precious to her. A God-honoring offering is pleasant to others. The whole house was filled with the fragrance of perfume. Everyone got in on the joy of her gift. A God-honoring offering is perplexing to some. There will always be those like Judas who can’t let go and give themselves. They are perplexed by those who can and do. Finally, a God-honoring offering is pleasing to Christ. He looked into her lovely face and exclaimed that she had done a beautiful thing to Him.
A God-honoring offering is precious to us.
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil…” John 12:1-3
AN offering that honors the Lord must first of all be something that is dear to us. God is not honored by token gifts, by putting our finger in our own alabaster box and simply dipping and dabbling a little upon Him. A God-honoring offering is something that is precious to us. King David said this when receiving the offering to purchase the threshing floor for what would become the altar of the temple. He said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
When Mary brought her offering it was precious to her. Verse three refers to it as “very costly oil.” It is also recorded that it was an offering worth three hundred denarii. One denarii was a day’s wage in the first century world. Think of that! This lady brought the equivalent of one year’s salary and poured it out upon Christ. It was beyond what was expected of her. It was beyond what many might have thought was reasonable. It was a God-honoring offering that was precious to her.
It is interesting to note that Mary’s position was at Jesus’ feet (John 12:3). This lady has center stage only three times in Scripture, and each time she is at our Lord’s feet. She sat at His feet to hear His word (Luke 10:38-42). She knelt at His feet in sorrow over the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:32). She worshiped at His feet when she brought her offering (John 12:3).
What a wonderful place to be found… at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we have been there lately. Have we been too busy? Too proud? Too self-reliant? It was Mary’s favorite place. We see her there in times of sorrow. We see her there in times of joy. We see her there in times of receiving. We see her there in times of giving. We see her there when the sun is shining. We see her there when the storm clouds are gathering.
This lady’s motive was love. The Bible records that her brother Lazarus was at the dinner party. WE will quickly remember where he was in the previous chapter of Scripture. He was in the tomb! How grateful she was for what the Lord Jesus had done for her family. She came in love and she came with a grateful heart. She gave not out of duty but out of devotion. Love motivated her. This is a good point for us to ask ourselves if we have given anything to our Lord lately, not because we thought it was our duty, but out of deep devotion and gratitude. Whatever love exists in the heart there is a desire to sacrifice something for the object of our devotion. A God-honoring offering is something that is precious to us.
This was no sudden impulse on Mary’s part. She had “kept” this offering (John 12:7). The word is best translated “protected.” She preserved it. She saved it. She kept it. She protected it. It was something that precious to her. Mary came that day to pour out on our Lord what she had long reassured. She came to pour out upon Him something that was of value to her. God-honoring offerings always consist of something that is precious to us.
A God-honoring offering is pleasant to others.
“…and the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3
“The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3). The whole house was filled with this fragrance and not just the room in which they were seated. It had an effect on everyone who was present. Sooner or later everyone would know what had happened. Even those on the rooftop would know that something sweet had been offered below. Everyone in that house got in on the blessing that evening.
When we examine all the God-honoring offerings in the Bible, we see that they are not just precious to us but they are pleasant to others. Mary’s offering brought a blessing to others who were caught up in its fragrance. There is a very real sense that it was not simply a blessing to those in Bethany that evening but also to those of us today wherever we are. The Lord Jesus said, “Wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matt. 26:13). The offering she gave so long ago continues to be a challenge and blessing to us today. I think of the churches I have pastored and the godly men and women through the generations who have given so sacrificially whose offerings are still being blessed in so many ways today by others. I know young people who are provided scholarships because of the God-honoring offerings of those in years gone by. I know retired preachers and many of their widows who are living with dignity in their declining years because of the God-honoring offerings of those who have gone before us.
We encourage one another with our giving. When we hear of someone who makes a God-honoring offering it encourages us to do more. It becomes a challenge and blessing to us. The Apostle Paul called the gift the Philippians sent to him “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). A God-honoring offering is not simply precious to us, but it becomes pleasant to others.
A God-honoring offering is perplexing to some.
“… why was this fragrant oil not sold…” John 12:4-6
Ironically, not everyone is blessed when others give God-honoring offerings. They are perplexing to some. A God-honoring offering exposes the phoniness in some people who begin to murmur like Judas and call it “a waste.” Judas called Mary’s offering just that — “a waste” (Matt. 26:8).
Perhaps there are still some today who would say the same thing to Mary that Judas said. That is, they would say it should have been sold and given to the poor. That type of criticism sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? Listen to Judas. Talk about audacity! Look at this phony. Talk about waste; he wasted his opportunity. He wasted his life. He wasted his very soul. He asks, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? (John 12:5). Doesn’t that sound holy? Why was this not so? The answer is because what Mary had was not for sale, it was for sharing!
Some today in many churches say the same thing that Judas said. Had some been in Bethany that night they would have chimed right in. Oh, perhaps they don’t say it with their lips, but they say it with the checkbooks. Judas subtly used the excuse of the poor to bring more money into his own hands. This was the real issue. In fact, the Bible even says so — “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6). There are still people like this today. Some people have a problem giving sacrificial and God-honoring offerings because they don’t want to let go of their own money. So, like Judas, they use excuses not to give as a way of putting more money into their own pockets. Do you see the real tragedy here? Mary had just drawn all of the attention of the house to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the center of attention. Judas turned the attention away from the Lord Jesus and put it on the poor. People like him give themselves away.
It is a fact of life that while God-honoring offerings are precious to us and pleasant to others, they are certainly perplexing to some. They are perplexing to those who love money more than the Lord Jesus Himself. Churches are filled today with men and women who are as lost as Judas. He was not in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. He was in love with what was in his bag — money! John records that Judas took money out of Christ’s treasury (John 12:6). He says he was a “thief.” Here was a many putting his hand in Christ’s only money bag and stealing from Him! But before we are quick to rise up in indignation, we must ask ourselves if we do the same thing. Malachi asks, “Will a man rob God?” When we ask, “How?” the answer comes back “in tithes and offerings.”
Think about waste. The great waste comes in hoarding up things. The great waste comes in keeping them from their proper use. What if Mary’s perfume had been hoarded up? Then it would have been wasted had it not been used. Here is a world in desperate need of the gospel and so many Christians are hoarding up estates, and never pouring any of it out on the Lord Jesus. Oh, once in a while we dip our little spoonful out as a token gift. Many will go to the grave with great estates but what good will it do them and what good will it do the gospel? Now this is waste! Wasted resources. Wasted opportunities to be a blessing. Wasted resources that will be left to the government to fund illegitimate social programs and in some cases heirs for whom it may become their own destruction. No, Mary’s gift was not waste.
Men and women who are ruled by money will do anything to get it. For thirty pieces of silver Judas would later betray the Lord Jesus. Gehazi pursued Naaman for a talent of silver. The sorcerer Simon offered Simon Peter money for Holy Spirit power. The power money has over people can keep them out of heaven. No wonder Mary’s offering was perplexing to Judas. He loved the money bag. It is interesting that Judas made such an issue out of Mary’s gift and turned around the very next week and bargained with the chief priest to sell Christ for thirty measly pieces of silver.
A God-honoring offering is precious to those who give but perplexing to those who gripe. Where do you find yourself? Are you opening your hand to give to God what is precious to you or clutching tight to your possessions, perplexed by those who give God-horning offerings?
A God-honoring offering is pleasing to Christ.
“… For she has done a good work for Me.” (John 12:7-8; Matt. 26:10)
While God-honoring offerings may be perplexing to some, they are always pleasing to Christ. There was not a voice heard in the home that night in Mary’s favor except One. It was the voice that really counted — the voice of Christ Himself. He looked into her lovely face and spoke to the others saying, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me” (Matt. 26:10). When we give something that is precious to us it is always pleasing to Christ.
He said to those around, “Let her alone” (John 12:7). Matthew adds, “She has done a good work for Me.” Our Lord saw the broken alabaster box that was precious to Mary. It was worth a year’s salary to her. He felt the oil on his feet. He smelled the sweet fragrance that filled the whole house and He said, “You have done a beautiful thing to me.” Some people might call us crazy to do what Mary did. That is to give what we worked so hard to acquire. But our Lord Jesus calls it a “good work,” a beautiful thing. It is pleasing to Christ. What about your alabaster box? Where is it? Is it locked safely away in a safety deposit box? Is it invested in a stock portfolio? Is it tucked away in certificates of deposit? Or, is it poured out on the Lord Jesus Christ?
Our Lord Jesus emphasized the fact that Mary’s gift was “For Me” (Matt. 26:10). This should always be an underlying reminder to all of us who give our tithes and offerings to our local churches and various ministries. WE are in reality giving to Christ Himself. It just so happens we are giving to Him through a local expression of His body that we call our local New Testament church.
Christ wrote Mary’s biography that day. She never said a word with her mouth, but her biography that day was written that day. Earlier, our Lord had said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our Lord Jesus watches over the treasury (Mark 12:41). He looked at Mary and came to her defense with a word of sweet affirmation.
In Mark’s account of this experience, he adds that Christ also said, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8). The fragrance of that perfume has long since evaporated but the memory of that woman will survive as long as the Gospel is preached because she “did what she could.” Mary’s offering was pleasing to Christ because she did what she could. She could not keep his enemies from arresting Him in Gethsemane’s Garden. She could not hold back the man with the cat o’nine tails who whipped His back. She could not hold back the hand of the man with the hammer who drove the spikes in His wrists and feet. But, she could identify with His cause. She could assure Him of her love. And “she did what she could.”
What does the Lord Jesus expect of me? TO do what I can! Our measure of faithfulness is not what someone else has done. We are to “do what we can do.” All Moses had was a rod, but he delivered a nation. HE did what he could. All David had was a slingshot. But he did what he could and slew a giant.
You say, “I don’t have much.” Then do what you can. Most of us don’t do that much. Do what you can regardless of criticism. God honoring offerings are perplexing to others. Do what you can regardless of the cost. God-honoring offerings are precious to us. DO it now, for the time is right. Do it now, for the time is short. Opportunities that are here today may be gone tomorrow. The widow of the gospels was the poorest of the poor, but she did what she could. Joseph of Arimathea was the richest of the rich, but he did what he could. They both gave to the Lord Jesus something that was precious to themselves.
The Lord Jesus said that what that woman did that evening in Bethany would be written about, preached about, talked about and read about everywhere around the world as long as the Gospel is preached. And the fact that you are reading these words is the fulfillment of that prophecy in Bethany so many centuries ago.
Our Lord Himself reveals the truth of what constitutes a God-honoring offering. It is something that is precious to us. It is something that becomes pleasant to others. It is perplexing to some, but mainly, it is pleasing to Christ.
Long before we ever thought of giving to God, God gave to us! Yes, He broke His own alabaster box and poured it out on you. His offering was precious to Him. IT cost Him something dear. He gave His only begotten Son that we might have eternal life. Love is always expressed in giving something that is precious to us. God’s gift to us is pleasant to others. We are a testimony of that today. The gift of Christ is what makes life worth living and fills whatever room we are in with the sweet fragrance of His love. His gift was perplexing to some. Some still look at the gift of Christ as Judas looked upon the gift of Mary and called it “waste.” Some think that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are wasting our lives doing so. Finally, God’s gift was pleasing to Himself. Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” Mary broke her alabaster box because she knew He would not need a marble monument. He wasn’t going to be in the grave long enough to even have a marker made.
It would do us all well to find our own place at Jesus’ feet and say what missionary Jim Elliott of old, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”