"Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her" (vs. 13).
The events of Matthew 26:6-13 can be hard for pragmatic Americans to understand. We are likely to side with the thrifty disciples who observed in verses 8 and 9, "Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold for a great price, and the money given to the poor." (Oddly enough, despite such concerns, I have observed throughout my ministry that those most vocal about fiscal discipline in order to "help the poor" also tend to be the stingiest when it actually comes to generous charity. Not always, of course, but often.)
It is so easy to cast stones at the spiritual decisions that others make. We are great ones for criticizing what God may be doing in the lives of others. "Why does she spend so much time at church? Doesn't she have better things to do?" "Can he really afford to give that much to missions? Isn't he going to be hurting his family's economic well-being?" "Sacrificing for ministry is fine to a point, but let's not get carried away with religion."
The account in vs. 6-13 is beautiful because it tells the story of one woman who held nothing back in her love of Jesus. She had a single valuable possession: this ointment. And, in her devotion to her Lord, she used it up on Him. Rather than being praised by the crowd for her act of love, however, she is criticized and scorned. But Jesus defends her from the disciples' derision. He is pleased by her worship. In fact, He decrees that her devotion will be proclaimed throughout the world alongside the gospel wherever it is preached. That prophecy has come true as this story was incorporated into three gospels in scripture, thus ensuring its permanent influence and universal witness. It appears in Bibles around the world today, as well as video and audio depictions of scripture, and even blogs!
The lesson for us is that (taking nothing away from our dedication to the poor) we should remember that our primary love and devotion ought to be for our Lord. Nothing is wasted that is given to God. In fact, it could be said that the only things we truly keep are those that we give away for Him!
For a wonderful version of this story set to song, please see Steve Green's "Broken and Spilled Out" music video: