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?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:3-6).
The ointment was presumably Mary’s ointment. For Judas, however, the ointment was an opportunity, for expensive ointment donated to the treasury would bring more money into the coffers over which Judas was in charge. Of course, he would say no such thing—it sounds much better to profess concern for the poor than to lay bare one’s true motives.
Human nature has not changed from Jesus’ time to our own. There is, and presumably always has been, money to be made in the name of caring for the poor. To be clear, there is a gospel mandate to generosity and justice—economic generosity and justice. But don’t assume that those who claim, indignantly, to be taking care of the poor with other people’s money are in fact doing that. They may be, or they may not be.
One wonders how much money Judas gathered precisely in this way, feigning concern for the poor. After all, Judas’ words sound reasonable, even generous—as they must be—and were likely quite effective. But they are the words of a thief. Not all individuals or organizations exploit the poor in their efforts, and some are a tremendous blessing. But we do well to recognize that, whether on the level of government, non-profits, or individuals, there is money to be made in the name of caring for the poor.
We must remember the poor. The question is not if, but how.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly (Proverbs 14:29).
Anger is one of the most serious sins in the Bible. Jesus, without apology, equates it with murder. This is not to say that it is never right to get angry—indeed there is such a thing as righteous anger—but the seriousness with which the Scriptures speak of anger should make us wary of hastily giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our anger. Anger often comes from the self-righteousness that is the exact opposite of true righteousness. And thereby we are (often willingly) deceived.
The proverb above is tremendously helpful. It declares that the one slow to anger has great understanding. Why understanding? Perhaps the one slow to anger knows that the things that often anger us do so because they impinge upon us, revealing our own bitterness and impatience and self-centeredness. Or that a Christian surrendering to anger brings the Lord into disrepute. Or that the Lord often trains us in the fruit of the Spirit by bringing people into our lives who try our patience. Or that anger really is folly, and therefore ineffective, for “with patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone” (Prov 25:15). Or that our Father in heaven will not forgive us if we do not forgive our brother or sister. Or that we have not truly grasped what Christ did in forgiving our sins. Or that, in the end, we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, but less.
Getting angry and taking offense is easy, and those who surrender to such show themselves to be fools, and on the wide road that leads to destruction. But the one slow to anger shows his understanding, showing himself to be on the narrow road that leads to life.
Ruth 2:12; 3:9
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
One of the beautiful pictures of God given in the Scriptures is that of an eagle—an eagle that carries his people out of bondage (Exod 19:4), who spreads his wings to catch his eaglets as he trains them (Deut 32:11), who spreads his wings as shelter and protection for his people. In the words of Psalm 91, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”
The book of Ruth uses the same image of an eagle. Ruth, a vulnerable Moabite widow, decides to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law who has also lost her husband, and accompanies her back to the land of Israel. Boaz, a landowner and a near relative of Ruth’s deceased husband, sees her arrival in Israel as her finding protection from the Lord God himself: “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12). But later, Ruth uses the same language to refer to Boaz, a man who has shown her great kindness and who she hopes will marry her. As she says to him, having approached him while sleeping, “spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9). And, as we see in the book of Ruth, her refuge is indeed found in the Lord—and in the Lord’s servant Boaz.
As Paul writes in the passage cited above, the relationship between a husband and wife is a picture of Christ and the Church. The image is powerful, and a particularly powerful call to husbands, for it suggests that the calling of the husband to the wife is like the calling of the Lord to the church—to spread his wings so that his beloved might find refuge, even as the church finds refuge under the wings of our Redeemer.
* The vulnerability of widows, an underlying concern in the Book of Ruth, is at least as great a concern now as it has ever been. On this, hear Gary Haugen, founder and director of the International Justice Mission at
Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor” (John 4:35-38).
Jesus tells his church, as we go, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching to obey his commands (Matthew 28:18-20). Strictly speaking, the command in Matthew 28 is not a command to go (although, to be sure, we are called to go), but rather a command to make disciples as we go. Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well seems to be a good picture of carrying out the Great Commission. Weary from his journey, he makes the most of the opportunity before him, as a woman comes to the well to draw water.
Noteworthy in this morning’s reading from John is the reason Jesus engages this woman. He does not speak of obedience to a command, but rather speaks of his encounter in terms of food. Responding to his disciples concern that he replenish himself, Jesus replies “I have food to eat that you do not know about” … “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus appears to find nourishment and strength in carrying out the will of God for Him. He then continues, addressing the disciples directly, telling them that the fields are ripe for the harvest, a harvest that they did not plant, but are nonetheless privileged to reap, and that to their own blessing. Is Jesus suggesting that, like him, the disciples might find strength as they attend to the white fields before them?
For some of us, perhaps our weariness will be addressed with food that we know not about, but which we receive by attending to the white fields ready for harvest, particularly in the weary and heavy laden people that the Lord brings into our circle, like a lonely and broken woman coming to a well to draw water.