Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
— John 12:3
How a person spends his money tells a lot about his priorities in life. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Jesus’ teaching is very clear: What a person does with his money reveals what is inside his heart. For example, someone may say he loves the local church. But if he never gives one cent to the church, the principle stated in Matthew 6:21 says his heart is not in the church, no matter what he says. Where is his treasure? If his treasure isn’t in the church, his heart isn’t in the church either.
I may say I love the Lord, but if I don’t tithe as the Lord commands, what does it say about me? I’m either ignorant about tithing, or my words are cheap. If I really loved the Lord, my money would reflect that I love Him. I would tithe.
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Words are cheap and easily spoken. Anyone can say he loves his church. But when a person sacrifices and gives to the church, he is demonstrating that his words are real. His heart really is in the church.
If a person never gives to the church, it reveals that he either has no money or that he’s a liar. Of course, a person who has no money will find it difficult to give. But if he does have money and doesn’t give, his words and actions don’t match. When he spends his extra money on all kinds of material junk and then drops a few dollars into the offering, he’s telling the true story! He loves his junk more than he loves the church.
Or consider a man who says he loves his wife but never gives her any money or special gifts to demonstrate that love. Yet somehow that same man is able to find the money to go fishing, buy a fishing boat, go work out at the gym with the guys, and so on. What has he demonstrated? He loves himself more than he loves his wife. That’s why he’s spending his treasure on himself.
How many men have told their wives, “I love you, Sweetheart” and then spent all their extra money on themselves? Then the wife is told that there just isn’t any money available to do what she wants to do. How does it make the wife feel when her husband does this to her time after time? He can say, “I love you” all he wants, but she knows he really loves himself. What he does with his money tells the real story.
Jesus made it very clear that where a person’s treasure is — where his money is — that’s where his heart will be also. So if you really want to know where a person’s heart is, follow his money and you’ll find out. Again I say, money tells the truth!
In John 12, Jesus and His disciples were having dinner in the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. This family was very close to Jesus during His earthly ministry. At that dinner, Mary showed her love by bringing Jesus an extremely expensive gift. The Bible tells us that Mary brought Jesus a gift of ointment of spikenard — in fact, she brought Him an entire pound of it!
The word “spikenard” comes from the Greek word nardos, which describes one of the most expensive perfumes that existed at that time. Let me tell you a little about spikenard so you can appreciate what Mary did for Jesus that day.
Spikenard was an uncommon perfume extracted from grasses that grew in the country of India. Once the juices were squeezed out of the grass, they were dried into a hard, lardlike substance. Turning that lardlike substance into perfume was a very lengthy and costly process. If you add to this the cost of transporting spikenard from India to other parts of the world, you can see why this particular perfume cost so much money.
Spikenard was so expensive that few people could buy it; most had to buy one of the many cheap imitations available. But the word used in John 12:3 tells us that Mary didn’t bring Jesus a cheap imitation; she brought Jesus the real thing — an ointment so valuable that it was normally reserved and used only as gifts for kings and nobility. This was the gift Mary brought to Jesus.
We can learn more about the value of Mary’s gift in John 12:3, where it says the ointment was “very costly.” This phrase “very costly” is from the Greek word polutimos, a compound of the words polus and timios. The word polus means much or great. The word timios means to honor; to respect; or worth. Together these words describe something that is of great worth or something that is of considerable financial value.
We’d call this “top-of-the-line giving”! As remarkable as it is that Mary even possessed a gift this valuable, what she did with this perfume once she brought it is even more phenomenal! John 12:3 says, “Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus.…”
When Mary took the lid off that expensive bottle, tipped it downward, and began to pour that precious ointment onto Jesus’ feet, everyone in the room must have gasped! This kind of perfume was not normally used for feet! Rather, it was the kind of ointment used to anoint the heads of kings and dignitaries. Mary’s actions would have been considered a horrible waste in most people’s minds, but that wasn’t how she saw it. Mary loved, appreciated, and valued the feet of the Master!
Isaiah 52:7 describes why Mary felt this way: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
You see, no other feet in the entire world were more beautiful to Mary than the feet of Jesus. Jesus had changed her life. Jesus had brought her brother back from the dead (see John 11:32-44). Jesus had brought new meaning into her family. To Mary, every step Jesus took was precious, honored, and greatly valued.
Remember, Jesus taught, “…Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). Mary’s actions revealed her heart as she poured her most valuable treasure onto the feet of Jesus. She deeply loved Jesus, and she showed it with the gift that she brought to Him.
John 12:3 continues to tell us that she “…wiped his feet with her hair.…” After she poured the spikenard onto Jesus’ feet, Mary reached up to her head and untied her long, beautiful hair, gathering it in her hands. Then she leaned down and began to wipe Jesus’ feet dry with her hair.
In the days of the New Testament, a woman’s hair represented her glory and honor. The apostle Paul referred to this in First Corinthians 11:15 when he wrote that a woman’s hair was a “glory” to her. For Mary to undo her hair and use it as a towel to wipe Jesus’ feet was probably the greatest act of humility she could have shown. She was demonstrating how deeply she loved and how greatly she valued Jesus. She didn’t throw a financial offering at His feet, but she possessed an attitude of worship as she gave Jesus the best gift she had to offer.
I can imagine the tears that streamed down Mary’s cheeks as she touched those precious feet. In total humility, she dried Jesus’ feet with the glory and honor of her hair. John 12:3 tells us that “…the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” Certainly the house would be filled with the odor of spikenard once Mary poured an entire pound of that expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet!
Considering how much spikenard cost, this was an enormous amount for Mary to use to anoint Jesus’ feet. In fact, Judas Iscariot indignantly asked Jesus, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). The Greek word for a “pence” is denarius. In that day, a Roman denarius was one day’s salary. So when Judas announced that the spikenard could have been sold for three hundred pence, he was saying that Mary’s perfume was worth three hundred days of salary. That is why I say it was an extremely expensive gift! It was worth almost an entire year’s income!
If it’s true that what a person does with his money tells a lot about his priorities in life, Mary’s gift that day revealed that Jesus was her highest priority. What does your giving reveal about how much you love Jesus?
You see, it may sound very simple, but it is a fact that if you follow a person’s money, you’ll discover what is or isn’t important to that person’s life. Look at a person’s finances, and in just a matter of minutes you can tell what he values most in life. The way he spends his money will tell the whole story of what he prizes, cherishes, loves, and adores.
Of course, everyone has basic needs of life that require money, such as food, electricity, gas for the car, and so on. But once these things are paid, what a person does with the money that’s left over will tell you what he esteems more highly than anything else. This may sound like a very narrow teaching about money, but this is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Since this is the case, what does the way you spend your money reveal about you?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to help me be honest about what my finances reveal about me. I don’t want anything else in my life to have a higher priority than You, so please teach me how to demonstrate my love for You with my finances. Help me to really worship You with my financial gifts and not to just casually throw them into an offering plate. Forgive me for the times I’ve said I didn’t have enough money to give to the church or to missions, yet somehow I found a way to spend money on all kinds of material things. My priorities have obviously been wrong, so today I repent. I have made up my mind that I am going to honor You with my finances as I ought to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am growing more and more faithful in the giving of my tithes and offerings. Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel are the greatest priorities in my life. Therefore, when I get paid, the first thing I do is set aside my tithe for the church and my offering for world missions and other worthy ministries. As I learn to love Jesus even more, my financial gifts are increasing as well. My treasure is in Jesus and the Gospel, because that is exactly where my heart is fixed.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. What does your monthly expenditure of money tell you about what you value most highly in life?
2. If Jesus looked at your finances to make an analysis of what you prized most highly, what would He find? You might as well be honest about it, because He already knows!
3. What changes do you need to make in your heart and expenditures to reflect that your heart is first and foremost in the Kingdom of God?