A few weeks back I wrote a blog called “Professional Christians (and Other Oxymorons).” In short, I shared my distaste of paid salaries and wasteful spending—in my opinion, one in the same—in the modern church.
I’ve also since written a response to the responses of that post called, “A Thick Skinned Grin: My Reply to Your Response.”
As promised, I wanted to write a follow-up to a specific comment that came in. Anna from http://cannopener.wordpress.com/ (an awesome blog) wrote a comment on “Professional Christians…”, regarding what I deemed unnecessary and poor spending, that has since stuck with me.
Just a little question. Wasn’t it Judas who said “this [expensive perfume poured out in worship of Jesus] should have been sold and the money given to the poor”?
This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this argument. The church spends a $1000 on a new drum cage; I say the money should be spent on more substantial purposes like the poor or sex-trafficking awareness (or maybe even… I don’t know… drum lessons so the drummers can learn volume control, a basic skill most educated drummers have).
What happens? Someone always says, “What about Judas and the perfume?” And another, “Remember when Jesus said, ‘the poor will always be with you’?” For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, go read the Gospels. I believe this story is mentioned, oddly enough, in each Gospel account.
In the story, a woman, Mary, anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. As Jesus points out, she is preparing him for burial and doing “a beautiful thing,” despite the grumblings of Judas and maybe other disciples.
This act is definitely a beautiful thing, and one of the most sentimental in all of scripture.
But here’s the deal: we can’t excuse the church’s poor spending habits by taking Jesus stories out of context, the perfume story especially.
My Quick Three-Point Rebuttal
1. Not every Jesus story can, or should, be flipped and turned to fit our modern times to solve our modern problems. The perfume story, I believe, falls into this category (this statement, of course, is worth arguing in better detail). To me, the perfume story speaks of the disciples’ sadness and confusion, as well as the humanity of Jesus, NOT an open door to spend money as we please. Jesus was to soon be tortured, executed, and buried. At that moment in time there was no better use of that or any perfume.
2. The Gospel of John states that Judas desired the money for himself because he was a thief. This was hardly my intention.
3. Jesus is not here any more. Not in the flesh, at least. Spending money on giant buildings with top notch gear and a full salaried staff (flying to conferences) is NOT synonymous with pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet. Our consumerism driven church is often wasteful and greedy—in light of the troubles of the world—and represents Mammon more than Christ.
This is my rebuttal. It may need some tweaking. I’m leaving soon for a cross-country road trip to Upstate New York, and I thought it’d be best to respond before this issue got too far away from me.