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What a Waste!

Logic does not always serve us well in worship.

It makes more sense, for example, for a church to meet in a barn and take the money that could have been spent on a nice building and send it to hunger relief.  Think about it.  We see the logic of usefulness.  After all, you can get more people to pray by convincing them that prayer will do something for them.  Get them a bunch of money.  Make their hair grow back.  Whatever.  We tend to market worship, much like we market the gospel, on the basis of a clear bottom line.

Believe this and do this because it will be so very useful.

It is remarkable, then, that men still give wives and sweethearts flowers.  By any reasonable analysis, that is not money well spent.  You cannot eat flowers.  Put them in water and they will still die.  They do smell good.  But, you can buy pretty smelling flower-scented fragrances for rooms at any Walmart.  And these last longer and are a good deal cheaper.

So, logically, a broom ought to be better than a rose as a gift.  Useful versus useless. A new lawnmower is better than a gold necklace (unless you can sell the necklace, because then you can use the money to buy a new lawnmower).

Flowers.  Jewelry.  Even cheesy sentimental romantic cards.  All perfectly useless.  And yet, in site of that, or maybe partly because of that, they are all better at communicating love equally expensive things that are bought because they are purely useful.

Think about it: The same man who might urge that the church ought to cut every corner possible on a new building, turns around and buys his wife a nice car to park in front of their nice house with all its nice furniture.  The couple, after all, could live in a shack and drive a 1972 Pinto (something I once bought, to my everlasting shame).  And then the money saved could be sent to world relief.  That's perfectly logical.  But, most people do not shout about bad stewardship if someone gives something extravagant to their spouse.  Usefulness isn't a good gauge when the subject is how to show someone we love them.

In John 12:1-8, when Mary broke the expensive perfume over the feet the Jesus, the most logical guy in the room seems to have been Judas: "What a waste!  That could have been sold and the money given to the poor."

Oh, wait, some say.  The failure of Judas was really in stealing some the group's money and in rejecting absolute loyalty to Jesus.  It's not really that he was logical.  I would suggest that, to Judas, using communal money and cashing in on the so-called Messiah surely seemed logical.  He was operating based on the pragmatic question, "What is the value of this for me?"

And then there was Mary.  Extravagantly wasteful and overly emotional Mary.  She was clearly not in her right mind.  She had gone way overboard.  She didn't take time to carefully balance outgo with income.  She acted with wild abandon and threw away what would have cost a year's wages to buy.

Jesus, perhaps because he had not majored in accounting, must have somehow missed all.  Maybe he didn't notice the wastefulness poured over his feet. Oh, but he did, didn't He.  He told everyone what Mary had done was wonderful.  Something the church ought to always remember. Like most acts of love, you just can't figure it out logically.


Joel said...

Thanks Tom for this thought provoking post. I have certainly fallen into the overly logical mindset due to life changes and the economy in the past few years. My brain and heart of going to be chewing on this one for a while today!

Tom Lawson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Lawson said...

Thanks, Joel. My wife serves as a constant reminder that sometimes the heart understands what the brain cannot reduce to a syllogism.

Anna Jackson said...

When I read the first bit about a church meeting in a barn I found myself agreeing... since I had no idea where this was going. But you are SO right. This is VERY good. Thanks for making me think. Reposting. :-)