A Costly Gift

“The Anointing at Bethany” by Daniel F. Gerhertz

I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. – 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

Years ago a guest speaker in church asked us to raise our hands if we believed we were fully surrendered to God. I raised my hand.

At the time, I thought I was fully surrendered. But over time, God showed me how I was holding back.

What does “full surrender” look like? I wondered.

Then I read the story of the woman who poured the entire contents of a costly jar of expensive perfume on Jesus. The practical ones grumbled. “What a waste!” they said. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

The apostle John tells us that Judas Iscariot was the one who objected. “He didn’t say this because he cared for the poor,” John wrote, “but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6 NIV).

“Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”

This woman, described by Luke as a “woman who had lived a sinful life in that town,” demonstrated better what full surrender looks like than the disciples and the “good” folks of the time—in more ways than one.

First, her motive was pure. An outcast, she was looked down upon by the so-called righteous citizens who were indignant that this pariah would crash their party. But she’d been forgiven and given a new life, a clean slate, and she wanted to show her deep gratitude. How grateful am I that the doors of heaven have flung open wide for me, thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary? How do I show my gratitude for what God does for me every single day? Full surrender shows gratitude.

Second, she gave the best she had. Most alabaster in those days was actually marble, and we know marble, even today, is costly. The perfume, nard, was worth a year’s wages—around $33,000 by today’s standards. Wow. Have I ever given God my best? Full surrender gives the best.

Third, she poured it all out. Nothing kept in reserve—just in case. When have I given God my all? Full surrender doesn’t hold back—it gives all.

Fourth, she ignored the criticism and obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How often do I let what others might say or think of me determine what I do? How obedient am I to the Holy Spirit’s promptings? Full surrender obeys.

Fifth, she recognized the opportunity to do what she could before the window closed. Too often I say mañana—not now. Tomorrow. Next week. Next payday. When I have time, money, whatever. And I lose the opportunity to do good. Full surrender doesn’t put off or look for excuses—it acts promptly, whether or not the command makes sense.

Who am I most like—the weeping, grateful woman? The smug, prideful onlookers who thought they were better than her? Or, worse, am I like Judas, hiding behind greed and selfishness?

Another account comes to mind: David—the shepherd, psalmist, king, man after God’s own heart—went to purchase some property so he could built an altar to God (2 Samuel 24:18–24). The owner offered to give it to him. David refused. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Have I ever truly sacrificed to give? Full surrender sacrifices.

Full surrender. I’m not there yet, but, with God’s help, I’m still working on it.

Father, keep drawing me closer to full surrender to You. Remove the fear of losing control—the fear of losing what I love and cling to. Plant the desire, the willingness, and the trust I need to let You truly be God and Lord. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; Luke 7:36–38John 12:1–8.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Magnifying Glass or Prism?

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You’re to be light, bringing out the God-colors in this world. – Matthew 5:14 (The Message)

I once ran into an old friend in the supermarket—seems like the grocery store has become the social center of today—and spent several minutes chatting, getting caught up. We’d been in a young mothers’ Bible study together years ago, and such shared experiences cement the bond we women have, even though time and life have a way of leading us on separate paths.

“What have you been up to?”

“How are the kids?”

“You look great!”

Somewhere in the conversation, I said, without thinking, “If we’re not in the center of God’s will, we’re going to be restless and miserable.”

Immediately I sensed I’d crossed a line. I thought about my statement the whole way home, hoping I hadn’t offended her.

While I believe the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) is given to every believer, and thus is my duty, too, I’m not bold—some would call it being pushy—when it comes to what we Christians call witnessing. While there are those who just seem to have a gift for telling a perfect stranger about Jesus, I’m not one of them—unless I sense God’s nudging. Words on paper, OK. Face-to-face, huh-uh. I’m too much a chicken. “Preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words” is more my style of evangelism.

But, even in that capacity, I wonder if I’m doing the job right. After all, I’m only human, and I fail every day. And such failures are the reasons why non-believers accuse us believers of being hypocrites. “I’m not a saint—I’m a sinner saved by grace,” “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” aren’t excuses or reasons to allow myself to blatantly disregard what God has told me in His Word.

But like the apostle Paul, “when I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try to not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19 LB). Hence I have no right to judge others.

Yet I have this wonderful life God has given me (John 10:10), a guidebook to life on earth (2 Timothy 3:16-17), a beautiful-beyond-description home in heaven awaiting me (John 14:2), and the key to it (1 John 5:11-12). Shouldn’t I share this knock-your-socks-off story with others?

Yes. In the words of the late Pirate announcer, Bob Prince, there is nooooooo doubt about it. After all, James says, a faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:18). “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

And doing what it says is to live my life so that all that I do is pleasing to God, letting His light shine in and through me: “I’m putting you on a light stand,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:15-16 (The Message), “Now that I’ve put you there . . . shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

A magnifying glass makes things look bigger than they really are, like other folks’ faults. A prism, on the other hand, bends the light passing through it, breaking it up into a rainbow of colors that showers those nearby.

Dear God, let me not be a magnifying glass, but a prism. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 5:13–16

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotioanl readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 by Michele T. Huey. All rights reserved.