“And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.’ And they criticized her sharply” (Mark 14:3-5).
Remember John Steinback’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men”? It tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place trying to find work during the depression era in California. The book describes how during adversity some men rise to act like men while others fall and act like mice.
When it comes to our service to God, are there some who rise up to act like men while others of us fall to act like mice? Better yet, are there some of us who go about focused on doing our best to serve God, while others sit back and act as critics as they pass judgment on those who do serve?
As the opening verses above indicate, shortly before His arrest, a woman comes to Jesus and pours fragrant oil of spikenard upon His head (Mark 14:3). She had done this in faith as she was anointing His body in preparation for His burial following His death (Mark 14:8). Jesus praised her forth this: “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:9).
However, there were some among the disciples who began to act like “mice”. Instead of seeing the good she was doing in serving the Lord, they began to place themselves in positions of judgment and started being critical of how something better could have been done. They felt like she had “wasted” the oil (Mark 14:4). They thought the oil could have been sold and the proceeds from it could have been given to the poor (Mark 14:5). The apostle John tells us the real reason Judas had said this. It was because he was a thief and took money out of the money box (John 12:4-6).
Jesus strongly rebuked them for criticizing her: “"Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always” (Mark 14:6-7). In His ministry, Jesus stressed how we have not been called to be critics, but we have been called to be servants: “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).
It is tempting to sit back and make suggestions how another person could better serve God. However, we act like “mice” when we give into such temptations and act this way. It is far better to act like “men” and focus on finding our unique service we can do for God and use our energies in carrying it out to His glory. Today, I do not want to be a “critic”. I want to be a “servant”. I will follow this godly lady’s example and do what I can to serve the Lord!
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18).