It seems that many Americans think the defining indicator of financial security is your lack of concern for waste.
You can see it all over our culture with movie stars spending $30,000 on a designer handbag to carry their dogs in, or in the rock-n-roll lifestyle where music videos clearly portray the idea that ”money is no object,” often times in a competition of who can have the most gold chains or throw the most cash in the air.
Luke 12:48 explains that “to whom much has been given, much is required.”
For me, this translates into working to minimize waste in my life. I know everyone’s definition of waste is different, but most can agree that we know waste when we see it in our own lives.
In John 6:12 (AMP), after Jesus just miraculously turned a few loaves of bread and fish into enough food for 5,000+ people, he said to the disciples ”Gather up now the fragments (the broken pieces that are left over), so that nothing may be lost and wasted.”
So was Jesus a tightwad?
No, Jesus wasn’t a tightwad. I think he was teaching the disciples a lesson here.
They may have been thinking, “oh, we don’t need to pick this up because Jesus can just make us as much food as we need, whenever we need it.”
Well, yes Jesus could.
But clearly He was trying to show us the value of not wasting, even when it comes VERY EASY, and when there is a whole lot of EXCESS.
What about Judas?
On the other hand you have Judas criticizing Mary with the Alabaster jar for her extravagant (and “wasteful”) act of pouring all the oil on Jesus’ feet.
“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?”
-John 12:3-5 ESV
Jesus could have easily agreed with Judas, but instead Jesus defended Mary’s actions as being appropriate.
At first glance, this seems like a pretty stark contradiction.
The way I personally have reconciled these two passages is that I have chosen to be as extravagant as possible when giving to others all the while reducing wastefulness when it is for myself.
What do you think? Join the conversation in the comments below.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t pile up her plate on a buffet line. I know I can always go back for more! My mil pointed this out to me, and said I was smart. She would get so stuffed from the first plate there wouldn’t be room in her stomach to try anything else!
andrew leishman says
I simply blame the evil media showing the more money you have the happier you will be. The sad part are culture is influensing other countries.
As a person who is very much into not wasting things, this makes perfect sense to me. Jesus wants us to care for our fellow humans, to care for this world he has placed us in, and to not take things for granted. Our throw-away society does not have to be as throw-away as it is.
I am with you, I am becoming more attracted to things that are NOT disposable. I am really enjoying maintaining things and having something that LASTS…
Yes! Also as I age, I realize that “stuff” is just more for me to maintain. Having less is truly more because you don’t spend your time worrying about all of the items you have to clean and organize in your home. I think today’s society is so busy and money/materially driven that the enemy uses it to distract us from what is truly important. Glorifying God and loving people.
Yolanda Lynn Jolley says
Beautiful analogies. Never looked at this the way you have. Appreciate all your words of wisdom.
Shannon C. says
Just caught this post today — thanks for pointing out that Jesus told his disciples to gather up the extra bread. I hate to see anything wasted, and I don’t really have a good reason to explain why, but now I can say I’m following Christ’s example 🙂
I loved this….and shared it with my mom
Glad to hear it Kristi!
Marcy Stave says
As a society, I think we have lost sight of these ideas. It is good to come to the Word for guidance. I too believe that Jesus wants us to be extravagant in giving while managing well (by reducing waste, caring for our environment, etc.) what He so graciously entrusts to us.
Thank you for the post.
This is an awesome articulation of this perspective. Sorry not usually a big word user but that’s the best way I could describe it. ALSO, your January financial fast has literally changed me and my wife Melanie’s life. Over the 21 days, years of compulsive, emotional, bad spending habits were broken! We are enjoying paying off debt and saving money. Thank you guys so much. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and Love for Jesus.
Love hearing this Aaron!!!
Kealeboga Pilane says
I would say Jesus was specific to himself. Mary was serving owner of the universe here ( you would take out your best to entertain Michael Jordan at your house while your best friend will do with disposable plates). Otherwise, do not waste ( spend without any serious return able to come out).
Thomas Kofi Wilmot says
Great post in terms of leaving your readers with something to think about. I definitely agree that we should “be as extravagant as possible when giving to others all the while reducing wastefulness when it is for…” ourselves.
The application of such wisdom to our daily lives can have a significant impact on how we prioritize things we spend money on.
On another note…I believe the focus of John 12:3-5, within context (vs. 7-8), is Mary anointing Jesus for his burial…not necessarily a lesson on personal finance. Judas made it about money, but that wasn’t at all what Jesus was concerned about. I believe that God led Mary to perform this act because it was a necessary step in connection to Jesus’ impending death.
If we are to apply the passage in John to personal finances, I think the emphasis would be on being spirit led about sacrificial giving. There are times to give to the poor, but other times God may lead us to use the resources He’s blessed us with for other causes that may appear to be of lesser importance, but to Him they are major! Thoughts?
Good point for sure, and I think that idea “Judas made it about money, but that wasn’t at all what Jesus was concerned about” has massive implications for all of us as Christians – because I think so many of us often make it more about the money, than obeying God. How often has God asked me to do something and my initial thought was, how could I ever afford that? Or if I do that, then I won’t have ____?
Katrina Kaizemi says
I would sum it up this way:
It is not wrong to spoil yourself if you can, as long as it is not harmful to yourself and others.
The issue is to waste or abuse your wealth while there are many others who are desperately in need and can make use of your generosity if one is willing to share.
Example: There are people dying of hunger in the world, meaning that they really are desperate, do not have to sustain themselves and you who have in abundance go on the waste(being selfish).
If you can share if you are able a portion of your have, that’s what I feel should be the case.
I think your conclusion fits perfectly with all of God’s teachings. We should be extravagant in our giving to others, as God has extravagantly blessed us. But then we are to be good stewards of those blessings; taking care of all that we have and treating it as the gift that it is. The world does not follow this, and everything has suffered. From the earth, animals and all our food sources, to the homeless and indigent. Unfortunately even those who fall in those categories often waste what is given to them, and stay forever in need. Certainly there are always those who cannot care for themselves, but we no longer have God’s natural order in mind, and the consequences of that are everywhere.
Great words! From what I understand the oil Mary was using for Jesus’ feet was rare and very expensive. Her hears was showing she was willing to give it all to her Savior. I agree when you say we have to give all to others and be sparingly with ourselves. Praise the Lord and have a great day!
Yunana A. Kure says
Very good lesson Jesus left for us to understand not to waste things because somebody somewhere need what are about wasting.
Judas was not sincere. He said that so that when sold definitely the money will come to him hence he was the keeper of money. I see greed in him.
Apryl Griffith says
This is an interesting topic. I’ve been given a conviction to be wise with the blessings the Lord has given me. I consider everything I have to be wealth. Money, my family, my spiritual growth, etc. Proverbs tells us that wealth can be good and bad. It’s not just talking about physical wealth, it’s also talking about spiritual wealth. These two verses speak to me greatly. Jesus can give us an abundance but what are we doing with it? So, I agree that we should be giving abundantly and not serving ourselves with own desires of fleshly wealth. We will gain spiritual wealth which is far greater than worldly wealth.
I agree we do live in a society where the richer are becoming richer and the poorer poor. Basically because some are wasteful and spend more money on shoes and cell phones than their basic needs.So to me this is wasteful and also lacking in knowledge too.
Annette Hengge says
The oil that Mary anointed Jesus with would have been very fragrant throughout His crucifixion ordeal. Everyone who came in contact with Him would have known that He smelled like the King.
I love this Annette!
Jesus gave abundantly without being foolish and wasteful with the excess. Judas was dishonest and would help himself to the money bag. He was criticizing Mary’s act of worship because he was dishonest
Corissa S. says
I just read this post for the first time today and I really got ahold of what Jesus said about not wasting. Thank you for putting it into perspective for me. God has been dealing with me about that very topic; needs vs wants and learning to understanding the word in a fresh definition. It’s true as fleshly people no one likes the word no because everyone operates out of they want mentality. But going along with the concept of not wasting we should embrace the word no because it could have this meaning no means needing to overcome a thought, and action, a discipline, and our habits. So when we go into that thrift store and find that treasure we’ve always been looking for do we buy it because it says low price or do we tell ourselves no I need to overcome frivolous spending. Then when you don’t buy it and you get in the car you say praise the Lord I did it I overcame the desire to want stuff. Stuff is merely a liability meaning it cost you money it is not an asset meaning something that brings you money or joy or happiness or edifies God. Or assets could be things that we give away to meet the needs of others. I could go on and on but thank you for this post God brought it to me at the right Time. I’ve been following you and reading your post for many years without ever commenting and have learned so much. Many thanks to you and your wife for all that you do
Thanks Corissa, that means a lot!
I too have been trying to do this. There is also something I heard someone say the other day that is stuck in my mind and I’m trying to figure out what it means to me. They said, If you want to know what God thinks of money, look who he gives it to. I want him to give it to me…maybe that’s the problem of why I can’t figure it out. Any insights are appreciated.
Misty, I have found in my own life that the more I have kept my focus on Him and His plans and purposes, the more He has given me to steward. Matthew 6:33 sums it up pretty well.
Tangela T. says
Thank you for re-sharing this post.
Suzanne Cahall says
It comes down to motive. The next verse says Judas, who was doing the criticizing, was not interested in the poor, but was the keeper of the money box and used to pilfer what was put into it. I like to think all those extra baskets were distributed among the poor. Or some other good use, for sure, is what the Lord had in mind. We should be generous in our worship and our giving, as you said. And not wasteful so that we can be even more generous. Those are my thoughts.
Neal Bringe says
I believe there are layers of meaning in scripture.
God made wheat to fulfill its purpose for the eater as an illustration of how His word will fulfill its purposes. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but sit shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
I have seen it said that the pouring out of the perfume was prophetic of the filling of the Household of God with His fragrance . “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3
Beth Powell says
Nothing is wasted in the natural universe. Jesus was a fine example of this . He had it gathered to not only prevent waste but also to prevent the Pharisees and other religious leaders from finding lawful criticism of his behavior. The oil with nard was valuable but Judas only wanted access to the money, he was a common thief. Besides, Jesus said she was perfuming him for his burial, she gave something of value and gave with all humility , using her hair.
I love the insight into these scriptures, and the contradiction. It shows that God can not be put into a box. There’s no black and white with Jesus; we must use discernment and call on the Holy Spirit to guide us in every decision. So many religions try to put a label or claim on what scripture says. This is a great example to how much we need to be in relationship with Christ. Without His guidance we are confused and our confidence waivers.
I believe that Mary was fulfilling prophecy and therefore, her perfume was a symbol of love and anointing Jesus for the crucifixion he was going to endure. Therefore, the fact that it was worth a lot of money was secondary to the special act Mary performed.
Terry Webster says
It seems to me that the same lesson is being taught in both instances.
Jesus had fed 5,000 plus women and children with more than enough. I imagine that He sent out all twelve of His twelve disciples to pick up the leftovers so that each one would experientially learn that he was to be aware that God’s generosity is to be respected, rather than taken for granted. Each one came back with a basketful of food. I’m guessing that teaching another lesson, Jesus told them to take these back to town and give the remnants to the poor and homeless, while He Himself went up into the mountain to pray. Joh 6:15
Mary, for her part, demonstrated that she was very aware and appreciative of God’s generosity, and demonstrated it in the greatest way she could.
The lessons from seemingly diametrically different scenarios: respect and love God.
Maggie Cortez says
Giving something that may be excessive to one may mean the world to the receiver and should be considered a blessing from God to the recipient.
This is beautifully said. I teach middle school and hear daily about “flexing” or the false sense of worth that young people associate with everything from wearing the right brands to comparing what kinds of cars their parents drive or how big their homes are. It’s a very toxic thing because when kids “flex” they’re ultimately comparing themselves to others and assigning value to themselves and others based on these overpriced material purchases. It hurts to watch. Jesus teaches us to lift others up with our blessings not tear others down.
Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Mary recognized Christ as exactly that. Her actions were not wasted on a mere man, but on the Son of God.