Judas simply could not understand Mary’s ridiculous decision. During dinner she had just taken a jar of expensive perfume and dumped it on Jesus’ feet! That perfume was worth almost a year’s wages. What a waste! Just think what could have been done with that money.
“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
But helping the poor wasn’t really Judas’ concern. “He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and being in charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). Judas was Judas’ concern.
John 12 shows Mary and Judas in stark contrast. One “wasted” her costly perfume on Jesus’ feet. The other stole from Jesus’ moneybag.
What was motivating them? Gain. They both pursued the treasure they believed would make them happy. To Mary, Jesus was the Pearl of Great Price, far more precious than money. To Judas, thirty pieces of silver was a fair price for the Pearl.
Once again the Bible beautifully illustrates Christian Hedonism. We pour out our love, our time, our energy, our money—in other words, our worship—on what we treasure most. And when we see others worshiping what we consider less valuable, we view it as a waste.
In Judas’ criticism of Mary we hear what the world thinks of those who give something precious to Jesus. Why this waste? Couldn’t your time or money or mind have been better spent?
To follow Jesus means sometimes choosing to lose what the world sees as gain. Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it. And whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). “Hating your life in this world” means foregoing worldly gain to have eternal gain.
The truth is that this kind of life is worship, not waste. Like Mary pouring out her perfume, a life of sacrificial love for Jesus shows how precious he really is. And it preaches to a bewildered world that Christ is gain and the real waste is gaining the world while losing your soul.
So who is telling you that you are wasting your life? The world? Or Jesus? You eventually hear it from one or the other. Whose opinion influences you the most?
That’s why John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life is one of my favorite books. It’s a crucial reminder of our need to listen to Jesus when assessing what is valuable. I go back to it repeatedly, especially chapters five (“Risk Is Right—Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It”) and seven (“Living to Prove He Is More Precious Than Life”). I need to hear this over and over.
That’s one of the reasons we are encouraging as many people as possible to read this book this year. Desiring God and Crossway Books have teamed up to release a new editition of Don't Waste Your Life along with a 128-page study guide. And we have developed an inexpensive study kit that includes a DVD where John gives brief overviews of each chapter. If you haven’t read this book, now would be a great time to do it, or to re-read it using the study guide. And the kit is an excellent tool to help you lead others through the book.
And to encourage you this month to keep pouring out your perfume on Jesus’ feet, I want to point you to an audio message that John Piper delivered at a conference a couple years ago titled, “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It’s the kind of message to listen to a couple times a year just to help you keep Jesus’ perspective.
I love being able to point you to our free online library of resources to listen messages like “Don’t Waste Your Life.” What a joy! And this ministry of worldwide free online access is completely funded by friends who want others to be nourished and encouraged just like they have been. If you would like to help keep this access free for yourself and others, especially those around the world who can’t afford to pay for such resources, I invite you to give a secure online gift. All donations for “Faith Comes By Hearing” are used specifically to support the online audio and video messages.
One last encouraging thought from John 12.
Jesus put a thief in charge of his moneybag! And he knew exactly what he was doing! Isn’t that remarkable? Jesus showed us by example where not to put our trust. He himself said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Jesus trusted his Father to provide everything he needed so he slept in peace, even knowing that Judas was embezzling.
Here’s the point: When we seek the kingdom first, everything we need will be provided. And our Father can easily out-give what any thief can steal.
Isn’t that good news? We do not need to fear giving lavishly to Jesus. We do not need to fear losing what the world can steal. God will provide all we need. Because he is all we will ever really need.
Joining you in seeking the kingdom first,