What a Waste! – The Pilferer.
The scent was exquisite but almost overwhelming. The occasional, warm evening breeze through the open shutters was quite a relief. Whatever Mary had slavered on Jesus’ feet was clearly top-of-the-line perfume. “Probably cost her a fortune”, thought Judas. “What a waste!” (Matt. 26:8).
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. (John 12:5-6)
Judas polished his question to a shine. It is carefully worded to conceal a dark motive while sounding bright and compassionate. Many of the questions people (including us) ask of Jesus need to be dissected to discover the deeper question. What Judas meant was, “Why wasn’t it sold, and the proceeds put in the money box that I carry, so that there is more for me to siphon off for myself?”
If we are honest, we probably hide wrong motives behind pure ones sometimes. It seems part of human nature to have more than one reason to do things. We will probably never escape from mixed motives, even in what we do for the Lord. So I have no complete remedy, just signs to watch for to avoid becoming like Judas, the pilferer.
- The cry, “What a waste!” is a warning sign—time to investigate our motives. I have invested myself in relationships by listening, loving, serving, and forgiving, only to find that the friendship was not the two-way street that I thought it was. Worse, perhaps the person turned on me, rejecting me and all I had done. Eventually I realize that I wasn’t content to love for the sake of the friend or Jesus; I wanted a lasting companion for myself. Similar scenarios happen when ministries fail and investments seem wasted.
- We must be completely honest with ourselves—it’s part of humility. What are the selfish motives that might be drawing us to a particular activity? Is there an ulterior motive for joining the worship band—a lead with the lead, or to get on base with the bronzed bass player? When I lead the youth group, am I hoping for recognition, or a path to a staff position? Once we know our motives, we can make better choices. We should ask the Holy Spirit to convict us too, though He often waits for an invitation. Notice that Jesus did not confront Judas; He went along with Judas’ pretence about boosting charitable donations.
- At other times the Spirit does disturb us. Perhaps the personal outcome that I envisage is more precious to me than He is. That’s serious pilfering, if you think about it. It grieves and distances Him. Secondary motives are usually fine until they hijack us so that we no longer follow the Lord’s leading. If that happens to me, God withholds anointing and allows me to become frustrated. It’s time to search my heart and re-submit to Him.
The danger with even normal, healthy motives that take over but are never satisfied is cancerous frustration. It spreads and spawns resentful behavior or secret self-indulgence. Perhaps Judas’ frustration with Jesus’ failure to topple the Romans led him to start pilfering. “After all my sacrifices I deserve a little reward.” We can get so obsessed with our selfish goals that we stop caring about His calling. Pilfering can even lead to betrayal.