Give the Money to the Poor (John 12:1-8)

I look at a story like this and ask — what is this doing here? John has included this story to make some sort of point. What is going on?

Mary buys an expensive jar of ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet. Judas Iscariot objects — give the money to the poor. John says Judas was only being greedy — he was the treasurer and was embezzling funds. Jesus blesses Mary’s action — this anointing is an anointing for burial — a prophetic act heralding his crucifixion.

It seems likely to me there was tension in the early Christian community about money and about the common purse. Luke mentions this in Acts. The disciples saw a common purse — sharing all possessions in common — as the most faithful application of the gospel. Problems developed. In Acts we hear that the disciples — Peter, James, and John were not being just in their distribution of funds to the poor. The poor they knew personally were getting the lion share. And here in John — the call to not waste money on expensive extravagances is placed on the lips of Judas Iscariot – the one who betrayed Jesus — and just for good measure — is accused of theft.

Clearly there were deep resentments about money running through these communities.

How we make out money and our expenditures spiritual is an interesting question for me. I look at my life — I look at what we have done without — and the extravagances we have spent on. My television set is 18 years old. I do not own a car. But I do buy a new computer every few years. I pay for high speed internet connections. I buy books. I do not tithe. We go to restaurants fairly frequently. I eat too much chocolate. The choices we make about how we will spend our money reflects who we are.

You can weep and fast and pray but who you are and what you believe is writ large on your VISA statement.


4 responses

  1. Okay. I just deleted a comment from this entry by someone named calling herself/himself Lori. It was a spam entry to an online prescription drug warehouse.There’s something ironic in spaming a bible study in the first place. But when an ad for drugs to enlarge certain parts of the male anatomy appears as a comment to posting about the consumerist lifestyle and how our shopping habits say as much about us as our spirituality it gets seriously weirdsville.Apologies to anyone who felt the information in the ad was of use to them.

  2. Thank you for sweeping the floor today, David! :)It seems as though money-mindedness and possessiveness is a quagmire in any century. It brings out some of the worst traits in people – spiritual and non spiritual, and more importantly, acts as a veil or even a wedge separating us from an intimate relationship with God. However, it seems such a trap. Money is like words – words we use to exchange ideas, money we use to exchange things. It is the clinging to money and the clinging to words that get us into difficulty. I think it is a matter of using both skillfully, keeping your intention in focus.

  3. David, I think you’re right … someone once said to me that if you want to see what you really care about, look two places – where have you spent your money, where have you spent your time.

  4. This is probably not the correct place to put this comment, but I’m running out of time…Why all the talk of burial and make such a big deal about dying if he’s going to be resurrected? If you’re not really dead, you don’t need expensive perfume rubbed on your feet…I get the imagery, but this study has be questioning everything and I just can’t help wonder if the author of this passage got a little off track here…

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