Worship: Are You Stingy with God?
Matthew Lesson #167
June 25, 2017
“Father we’re thankful that we have Your Word, that it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, and Father, it is through Your Word that You have said and decreed that we are to be sanctified. As our Lord prayed, Father sanctify them in truth; Thy Word is truth.
“We can’t get to spiritual maturity, we can’t get to spiritual growth, and we can’t get to anything that is truly spiritual if it’s not based on Your Word. We have to understand Your Word for it reshapes our thinking according to Your eternal absolutes.
“It informs us as to the areas in our own thinking that are completely wrong and distorted—where we have changed and perverted priorities that You have established from the time of creation—and it is according to Your Word that we get that correction, and that we are taught how to walk in the paths of righteousness.
“Now Father, as we study today, we pray that we be responsive to the challenge that we have from Scripture, and that we can follow the example set forth in this episode of the unnamed woman and her worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 26. We’re going to focus this morning on Matthew 26:6–16. Not so much on verses 14 through 16, but primarily on that central section. It is a section that is framed or bracketed by the introduction that Jesus gives to His disciples in Matthew 26:2 that after two days of the Passover, the Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified.
That word “delivered up” is stated twice more in this section; in Matthew 26:15 when Judas asked the religious leaders what are they willing to give Him if he delivered Jesus up, and then from that time, he sought to betray Him. The words “betray” and “deliver up” are all the same word in Greek.
That frames this episode and tells us something about what is going on here. There is a contrast between the religious leaders and their pseudo-worship of God—their false worship of God—which is, as I focused on last time, legalistic.
They are more concerned about preserving their legalistic framework, their ideas about who God is and what is necessary to have a relationship with God, than to submit to the authority of God and respond to the grace of God.
That is how this begins: there’s this contrast that takes place between the Pharisees and their legalism versus the grace orientation, the generosity of the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus’ head in Matthew 26:6–13.
There is another contrast going on here and that’s the contrast between her—her devotion to be willing to give so much to honor and respect her Lord and reflecting her understanding of what is about to take place—and Judas. Because she’s going to anoint Him with this oil that is valued at 300 denarii in the Mark passage, which is equivalent to a year’s pay for a laborer.
You can equate that to something like maybe $40,000, $50,000, or $60,000 a year in our economy. This is quite a financial sacrifice on her part; that is part of her worship and it shows her generosity.
Also we see that when the disciples see this, there’s a contrast with the disciples, as well as with Judas. The disciples say, “Well, what a waste of money!” See that really represents the ways some Christians think because they aren’t grace oriented.
They’re not very generous with God, which is why I’ve titled this message “Worship: Are You Stingy with God?”
It is not just a financial term—“stingy”—but we’re stingy with who we are and what God has required of us. What we will be accountable for the Judgment Seat of Christ. We’re so busy with what we want to do in this life that we often and frequently ignore what God’s priority is for us in this life.
As I’ll bring out several times, when we get to the Judgment Seat of Christ, the question isn’t going to be, “What did you accomplish in life? What was your education like? What did you do in the realm of sports or athletics or music or other areas of your life and involvement?” In contrast to the priorities set forth spiritually by God in terms of our spiritual growth and serving Him in this life.
Romans 12:12 is talking about that we are to be dedicated to God—we’re to give our lives as a spiritual sacrifice. But most people don’t want to do that because they are spiritually stingy. That applies to all of us at some time and maybe some of us most of the time.
But I’m included in that because as a result of sin nature control, we all have that orientation of self-absorption, and we live on the basis of “it’s all about me” rather than living on the basis of its “it’s all about God”. So let’s look at this passage.
In the beginning we get a time marker. It’s at the end of the day; it’s at the end of a very, very long day for Jesus. It goes back to chapter 21 when Jesus is gone through a number of confrontations and challenges with the different groups of religious leaders in in Israel.
It culminated in Him announcing seven—depending on the textual variant, seven or eight—woes upon the Pharisees Then He announces judgment on the temple and its destruction. The disciples say, “When will this be and what are the signs of your coming …” talking about His coming Kingdom.
He answers with the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25. Now it’s at the end of that day, which tells us that this is toward the evening or maybe the sun has already gone down, but it is late in the afternoon at the very least. He says here, “… after two days is the Passover ...”
That’s an important temporal marker because the Passover is going to begin on probably Thursday night. The 14th of Nisan comes, according to the Jewish calendar, at sunset and lasts until sunset the next night. There are some chronological problems there that we will get into; I’ll probably have a special lesson just on that.
He’s saying here in two days is the Passover. That’s when He will be delivered over and He will be delivered up to be crucified. That gives us a bit of a framework.
Then there is a shift in topic in Matthew 26:3–5: that is the reaction of legalism, the evil of legalism that takes place on the part of the religiosity of the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
We see a contrast between the woman and the Pharisees; a contrast between the woman and Judas. She selflessly worships the Lord, and he selfishly follows his own agenda and betrays Christ. There’s also the contrast with the Pharisees and there’s a contrast with the stinginess and the superficiality of the disciples.
Matthew 26:6, “And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.”
This is providing a lot of information about the setting. Matthew and Mark described this same incident. They frame it with the same information, although Mark’s account, as we read earlier, is somewhat abbreviated compared to Matthew’s—he gives more detail.
For example, in Matthew we have five verses at the beginning, and what happens in those five verses is summarized in two verses in the Gospel of Mark. At the end when it talks about the betrayal, the three verses of Matthew are abridged with only two shorter verses by Mark.
The intervening story is basically the same, although Mark adds some more detail. For example, the cost of the expensive perfume that the Lord is anointed with, but basically it gives us the same information.
Jesus is in Bethany. Bethany is on the east side of the Mount of Olives, so He hasn’t gone very far. If it takes place that evening following the Sermon on the Mount, He concludes with His statement to the disciples in verse two, and then He goes home to Bethany.
That’s how I understand this, but my understanding is not anywhere close to the majority understanding. I could be wrong, but I think nearly everybody else is wrong, and that they haven’t paid proper attention to the text, so I’ll point that out in just a minute.
Matthew 26:6 we’re told that Jesus was in Bethany, and He is at the house of a man identified as Simon the leper. We don’t know anything about this particular Simon. There’s another Simon that is mentioned in another anointing incident that’s described in Luke 7:36–50.
That is a totally different episode; that Simon is a Pharisee. What happens in those circumstances is different from these circumstances. The context there is different from the context here, and at the risk of sounding like I’m not being consistent, nearly everybody recognizes that, except for liberals.
What happens if you come to the text, and you’re either a full-blown liberal or you are a liberal-influenced evangelical—which means you affirm inerrancy, but in practice, you deny it. We heard a lot about that at the Chafer Conference in 2017 when David Farnell talked about inerrancy in the Gospels, that the vast majority of New Testament scholars teaching in seminaries today, some of the traditionally solid seminaries, that basically deny inerrancy by how they handle the text.
What happens is, when we get into an episode like this, there are actually three different anointing episodes that are mentioned in Scripture. There is the episode that’s described in Luke 7:36–50 at the home of a Simon, a Pharisee. There is the episode that is described in our passage in Matthew 26:6–13, and also described in Mark 14: 4 and following. Those, I believe, are clearly identical.
There’s another anointing incident that takes place. In John 12:1–12, you have the description of another anointing episode that is often confused with this one. It also take place in Bethany, but if you read it you notice that there are some striking differences, and I believe that even though there are many scholars—and when I say “many scholars”—I’m talking about people that I respect: Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Stan Toussaint, Dwight Pentecost, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Moody Bible Commentary.
I could list a host of commentaries that all say Matthew 26:6–13 are basically a flashback. They have to do that because the setting here seems to suggest at first blush in verse two that it’s two days to Passover. But if you read John, John says it’s six days before Passover.
There are a lot of similarities here, but one of the things that really hit me afresh at the Chafer Conference in 2017 was when Wayne House was talking about interpretation in identifying and understanding certain passages. He said the similarities are important, but what’s really important are the differences.
And even though they could be right, I could be wrong, I think the differences are important. I think there’s a clear indication in Matthew 26:1–16 that this whole thing is talking [about events] at the same time period because:
- There’s nothing here to indicate it’s a flashback.
- Matthew doesn’t have any flashbacks in the entire Gospel.
- At the beginning of verse 14 when He talks about Judas going to betray Him, He begins with the word “then”, TOTE, which indicates that that is following what preceded.
It’s very possible that Judas could have gone to the religious leaders following this event if it occurred on Saturday night. I’m assuming that Christ enters into Jerusalem on Sunday. If this happened on Saturday night at the dinner in Bethany, which is what John 12 talks about, that would put Judas going to the religious leaders to betray Jesus very early, before their antagonism really reaches a critical mass as a result of the entry in Matthew 21, and I don’t see that.
There are a few commentaries and a few scholars that agree with me. I’m not standing out here all by myself, but the group that I’m standing with can be counted on one hand, not counting your thumb. Maybe dropping off a couple of other fingers, so it’s a small group. But I’m emphasizing the differences and not the similarities.
So if this is taking place two days before Passover, that’s one distinction. The other distinction is in John. John says that Mary—this is Mary who is the sister of Martha and Lazarus—is anointing Jesus’ feet with the oil. But in the Matthew and Mark accounts, the unnamed woman is anointing His head with oil.
You will have scholars that come along and say well he did both because it says here that when Jesus responds in Matthew 26:12, “for pouring the fragrant oil on My body.” See, “My body” would include head and feet.
While that is possible, I think that the fact that the emphasis in John is on the feet and Matthew’s on the head is distinctive. I think these are two separate events.
Having said that, it doesn’t change our understanding, our interpretation of it or application of what’s going on here. It’s just important in terms of working out and understanding the chronology.
On the liberal side, what we often hear from people—and I’m talking about this as a liberal view, but this leaks into the “conservative evangelical” side. You have the liberal ideas of, Oh, these are three different instances or two different instances. Obviously there’s at least two or three or maybe more traditions of some woman anointing Jesus on His head or His feet or His body or whatever and that the Gospels sort of treat these as separate or combine them or whatever—there’s this oral tradition and the writers just put this together.
The subtext is God the Holy Spirit isn’t specifically inspiring them to write correct details. It’s just their understanding of this oral tradition that is out there.
What has happened in evangelicalism is we’ve gotten to be like the Israelites of old who said we want to have a king like everybody else. And the way they apply that is we want to have scholarly credentials for our scholars like everybody else. We want to be as respected as the liberals are. So you enter into a false value.
Starting back in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s—this is a repeat of what happened in the late 19th century—we’re to send our men over to Europe, they’re going to go to Oxford and Cambridge and Aberdeen and Bern; they’re going to go to Basel, and Heidelberg, and all these other universities that have prestige in the unbelieving liberal community—so that we can learn from them.
Even if these men come back and have mostly retained their orthodoxy, a lot of them picked up Trojan horses. So they come back and little things leak out, and that may not be too bad in the first generation, which I would put in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But the second generation that would’ve come along in maybe the ’90s and into the 2000s, who don’t have as rigorous a conservative background, so this has become a big debate.
I say that because one of the most respected scholars and commentaries on Matthew is by R.T. France who’s Irish. Whenever you hear a British theologian referenced, 99.99% of them, even the conservatives like C.S. Lewis and others, don’t believe in inerrancy and infallibility like we do. So just automatically understand that. Americans make an issue out of that, the British conservative evangelicals don’t. That’s a distinction.
This is what R.T. France says, “The complex literary phenomena are probably best accounted for by two originally separate stories of a woman anointing Jesus. John, being aware of elements of both but linking this story with the Bethany family in whom he had a special interest.”
He’s not writing that as if he believes God the Holy Spirit is specifically revealing to John the exact details of what happened—he’s fudged it. That shows a weak view of Scripture. I just thought I would throw that out for your edification and to teach little critical-thinking skills.
Here is what John 12:1–3 says, “Then, six days before the Passover”—see he puts it earlier—“Jesus came to Bethany”—so it’s the same town—“where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served.”
If you read that without referencing the other Gospels, where do you think they’re having dinner? At Mary and Martha’s house with Lazarus. You wouldn’t think that they’re at somebody else’s home.
Now you could understand it that way. It doesn’t specifically say they are at their house, it just says “there they made Him a supper.” “There” could be Bethany, and Martha’s serving, but it’s in somebody else’s home. You could work it out that way, and Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table, and that might work.
It’s the chronological terms in Mark and Matthew that create the problem, it goes on to say that she “anointed the feet of Jesus” in John 12:3, “and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
It’s very similar. The only difference is that it’s feet instead of head, so let’s just merge them, and that’s basically what is attempted here. As I said, I really think that my view is the minor view, the minority view, but there are a few others who take these as two separate events.
I think the reason we have these two separate events, even though they are very close together, that bothers some people. Well, this is on Saturday night and then we had Tuesday nights. I think that what we see here is something similar to the Gospels—the Synoptics say that Jesus cleanses the temple and throws the moneychangers out on the day after He enters into Jerusalem (or maybe it’s that afternoon on Sunday. I can’t remember precisely.).
Anyway, they say that at the end of His ministry He cleanses the temple. Then John 2 says that He does that at the beginning of His ministry. So classic liberals say, “See, something happened at some time when Jesus did something to cleanse the temple. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they got it kind of wrong, and they put it at the end. John, maybe he’s the one who has a wrong. He puts at the beginning, but none of that detail really matters. What matters is that Jesus did it.”
I think that His ministry is framed by cleansing the temple at the beginning and cleansing the temple at the end. What we see here is something similar, and that is right before He enters into Jerusalem, He’s going to have His feet anointed and then His head anointed, and that both instances reflect the value that the women place on Who Jesus is as they worship Him.
Those two events basically bracket everything that happens from the entry until the end of the Olivet Discourse. Because if you take the traditional view, and this is Tuesday night, nothing really happens on Wednesday. It’s a dead day.
Some people say, “Oh, how can you do that?” Well, if you take a Wednesday crucifixion, you have Friday as a dead day and that’s a real problem, because it’s not a holy day and a Sabbath, then why don’t the women go down to deal with Jesus’ body on Friday? That’s a huge problem that’s never answered or addressed.
If it’s Tuesday night and then Jesus is basically quiet on Wednesday, that would make sense, but these two events bracket that public ministry of His examination. Remember, according to the typology Jesus would enter on the 10th—that’s when He’s examined. So that would take place, I believe the traditional view, which is what I mentioned earlier, is on Sunday.
I believe that the 10th is on Monday and that’s when the entry actually was. But I’m not going to get off into all those details. That will turn your brain inside out and we will do that another time.
We see here two episodes that focus our attention on the same thing, which is the value of Who Jesus is and what He has done. What happens is that we see in these two passages, in these two instances, is that He is anointed with extremely expensive perfume. We have similar language in both passages.
In the John 12:3 passage, He is anointed with the oil of pure spikenard, which is a good translation. The word MYROU in the Greek is a word that is often translated myrrh. But it is also a generic term for any sort of oil or unguent or cream.
Sort of like folks in the South, when they want to have a soft drink, they will say “I’ll have a coke.” Now by “coke” they may mean anything from Dr. Pepper to Mountain Dew because “cokes” have become sort of a generic term for any kind of soft drink. Up north they’ll call it “pop” or something else.
That’s the idea here is that myrrh also has a generic term that could refer to any kind of oil. It’s defined as an oil or perfume of pure spikenard which is an extremely rare and expensive oil or perfume in the ancient world.
Matthew 26 just uses a different word describing its expense. He uses the word BARUTIMOU which is a different word, but it’s a synonym for PISTIKES and indicates value. It’s costly, so he just summarized it as an oil or an ointment or perfume of expensive oil.
Either way, it’s an alabaster jar which is a particular kind of alabaster that is used in the Middle East, Egypt, Mesopotamia, all through that area used it. Alabaster was formed out of a calcite. You also have a term alabaster used of that which is made from a softer gypsum in Western Europe, but it doesn’t hold, it’s not as hard as the calcite alabaster in the Middle East, and so that was often used for sculptures and for various vases and bowls and bottles. This indicates how valuable it was because of what it was contained in.
She comes and we’re told that she anoints His head as He sat at the table. But this generates a reaction from His disciples, which is described in verses Matthew 26:8–9. It’s the same kind of reaction in the John 12 episode, but we will focus on Matthew.
“But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant.” They are really irritated at this. I mean, this isn’t just a mild sort of “why did she do that?” They are really upset and they start arguing with each other, kind of under the breath back and forth. But Jesus is going to pick up on that.
This isn’t a whole lot different than some of the fights that you may have heard about or been part of at churches that are building buildings. Some of you are chuckling already. I see those smiles on your faces. There are always people who want to be minimalist. Let’s spend as little money here, so we can spend it on spiritual things like missions or feeding the poor or something like that. Then there are others who say “Well, the building is not irrelevant. The architecture—aesthetics, beauty—is every much a part of God’s creation.”
Have you ever noticed that flowers are not built by a pragmatist? The beauty of the world is not built by somebody who’s a minimalist. It’s all functional, but God puts beauty into His creation. In the same way—and this was clearly understood in the Middle Ages—they had a fully developed understanding of aesthetics.
It wasn’t just about “Let’s spend a lot of money to build some cathedral to the glory of man”. They thought through the theology of aesthetics and their desire was to build a place to worship God that reflected the order and beauty of God’s creation, so that in a positive sense it was to glorify God not to glorify man.
They understood that. We usually come out of a Protestant tradition that is somewhat stingier than that because of a lot of different reasons. Now if you don’t have the money, don’t try to spend it. Don’t create something of beauty that you can’t afford. That’s an important principle.
But if God has supplied the resources one should not be judgmental and say, “Well, look at how much money they wasted. They could’ve just put in a steel building and some concrete bricks, and as long as it accomplished the function, then that will glorify God.” They could spend the money on something else.
So you see the church has been having the same argument down through the ages. Jesus makes it very clear what the issues are, that there are priorities and the priority is the Lord, whether you’re talking God the Father, God the Son, it is God. It is specifically in this passage, Christ-centered; it is Christos-centered.
So Jesus rebukes them for their stinginess. And this is often what happens in our own worship. We try to cut things down to the minimalist approach, and that ends up being superficial. That is the counterpart to a legalistic mentality. Legalism tries to “cross the ‘T’s and dot the ‘I’s,” to follow the letter of the Law, and totally missing the spirit of the Law. That’s what legalism is.
Whereas grace orientation involves a generosity and a munificence towards people, in how we relate to them: in our forgiveness of people, our love, our concern for people and especially our focus upon God. We are, according to Romans 12:1, to give our lives as a spiritual sacrifice. Not just Sunday morning, but all that we are, all that we have, is to serve the Lord. That is the priority.
Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t work and we don’t get educated, we don’t do these other things, but that everything has to focus and be directed toward serving the Lord with our lives and fulfilling His mission for us, so that when we’re before the Great White Throne Judgment, we can hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So Jesus rebukes the disciples here. A lot of people would say it’s good to give to the poor. Jesus would say sometimes you choose that which is better instead of that which is good. There’s nothing wrong with giving to the poor, but it’s better to understand who the Lord is and what His objectives are and to glorify Him that way.
Matthew 26:10 he says, “But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman?’ ”
Then there are three “fors”—not three “fours”—three “fors,” each translating the Greek word GAR, which means He’s giving an explanation of something. He’s explaining why the woman has done what she has done.
First of all, “For she has done a good work for Me.” This word that’s translated “good work” is the Greek word KALOS. There are two different words for good. AGATHOS is often translated with the idea of an intrinsic good. But KALOS has the idea of something that is beautiful, something that is lovely, something that is wonderful.
It is more than simply she did a good thing as opposed to a bad thing. She’s done something wonderful and lovely. She has focused on who Jesus Christ is to glorify Him in light of what is about to take place.
First of all, He puts the emphasis on her and what she has done. She has understood Who He is, and so she is going to honor Who He is through what she does. Matthew 26:11, He says, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
They have forgotten that He’s about to go. So this is something that is historically and temporally focused here. Jesus is with them; the Son of God is with them. The Son of Man is with them, and He is about to be crucified and die. We have to understand that framework that comes in Matthew 26:11.
I think another reason—it’s not definitive, but I think it’s another reason—why these all fit together in terms of that timeframe and what Jesus has just said: He says she understands I’m going to be crucified.
I’m going to die and I’m going to be buried, and the reality is that His body will not be treated or honored by the Romans who are crucifying Him as she does, and so she is anointing Him and anointing His body in light of His burial.
That’s what He explains in Matthew 26:12, “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.” She understands what is about to happen and they don’t. Because she understands what’s happening, she understands the grace that it embodies. She deals with the Lord in grace.
In contrast they’re stingy: we don’t really have that much money; we don’t want to give it, we’re going to hold onto it. So they are not giving of themselves. There is not only no generosity financially, there’s no generosity of spirit. But she recognizes Who Jesus is and that as a believer, our proper response in worship to Who Jesus is, is an exhibition of a generosity of spirit toward God.
We live in a world where there are a lot of pressures. There are a lot of things we have to accomplish. There are a lot of pressures we put upon ourselves, a lot of things we have to focus on as we are growing up, as we’re maturing, and as we get older. When we’re younger, we focus on our education, we focus on our career and our jobs. We focus on entertainment, we focus on sports.
All of these things are good. None of these things are in and of themselves inherently wrong or evil, but it becomes a distraction when it takes us away from our priority which is to worship the Lord with our lives.
When we get older, there are other problems that come along: problems with health, problems with spending a lot of time going to the doctor, problems with lack of energy, things of that nature. So when you’re young, you have one set of distractions you have to deal with. When you get older, you have another set of distractions to deal with.
That’s part of the test: are we going to let the distractions define our lives, or are we going to let the Lord define—the priorities of Scripture define—our lives? That’s always the test in a fallen world.
One of the things that we need to recognize is that ultimately all this really does get down to our volition. We often hear people in our circles talk about negative volition or positive volition. A lot of times what people talk about in terms of negative volition, we think of somebody who’s an atheist, who is out to destroy the freedoms of worship in this country.
We think about people who have rejected Christ. We think about people who are legalists, and they’re trying to earn their way to Heaven. We think about negative volition is the person who doesn’t go to church.
Let me tell you what negative volition is. Negative volition is saying “I haven’t had a chance to go to the grocery store or take care of my ironing, and I can either do that tonight or I can go to Bible class.” The choice is I need to take care of my ironing and I need to take care … I don’t how many times I didn’t wear ironed or clean stuff [when I was single] because—it wasn’t that it was real dirty—but because I was at Bible class instead of going home and cleaning up the house.
Now doesn’t that sound like somebody in the Bible? Seems to me that you had this issue between Mary and Martha. Mary is focused on the Lord. She’s sitting at the Lord’s feet, and the Lord rebukes Martha because Martha is so concerned about keeping everything neat and right in the house, that she’s not spending time with the Lord.
We have to understand how to work out these priorities so that it’s not one or the other, but we can spend time learning about the Lord and growing spiritually, and if somehow we have to not quite get as much done around the house or the yard work or working on the car or education or whatever, we have to make those choices.
Now I realize there are times when you’re working on specific things, and they have to be accomplished. Those kinds of things come up all the time. There is a time in life when we have to focus on getting our education and sometimes that puts us in a bind. But that’s part of the test is defining how we’re going to worship and not forget our spiritual life during that time of education.
Negative volition can take many, many forms. One of the most subtle is with people who say, “Well, I know the gospel. I can name you an untold number of friends of mine that I grew up with that have a good solid background. They can witness, they understand the gospel, they understand basic doctrine. But they show up in church once in a while—once in a blue moon—because they think they’ve learned enough.”
Some of you know that I have something of a measure of education and background and knowledge of the Scripture, and I’ve worked hard at that for well over 55 years. I don’t know nearly enough. That’s an “a fortiori” argument: if I don’t know enough, then most people who are listening to me really don’t know enough.
You need to understand that. And I would say any of my professors, anybody that mentored me along the way, would say the same thing in comparing them to me is that I’m not where they are.
Let me tell you something: God is omniscient. We never will be omniscient. We will always have a finite understanding. That means that you’re always going to be learning more about God and His creation into eternity. So if you don’t like learning about God, if you’re saved, you got a problem.
It’s important that we start now. That’s part of worship. Don’t get sucked into the idea that I know enough, but right now I have all these demands. I know a lot of people who have a lot of demands and guess what? That doesn’t hurt their priorities in terms of studying the Word and their personal relationship with the Lord.
People who use their jobs and their responsibilities apart from Scripture to justify not being in Bible class, to justify not reading the Bible every day, to justify not memorizing Scripture are spiritual failures, pure and simple. They’re not growing and that applies to you and that applies to me because we all go through these ebbs and flows in our lives.
If you’re a pastor, you have them just as much as anybody else. We all have the obligations of life. Sometimes we’re on top of them and sometimes they’re on top of us. That’s part of the test.
We have to keep our eye on the ball, on the priority, because one day the Lord’s going to say, “Well, what did you do with the time I gave you? What did you do with the education I gave you? What did you do with the IQ I gave you? What did you do with the money I gave you?”
We’re going to say, “Well, I was really busy with that,” and the Lord is going to say, “Why didn’t you take advantage of these opportunities to grow spiritually?” And we’re going to say, “Well, at that particular time I was really busy with my career.”
As soon as we come up with that answer—say, “Yes, Lord, but”—what’s going to appear in our soul is a realization of how vacuous any excuse is. Because when it comes to the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord’s not going to say, “How well did you do in school?” He’s not going to say, “How far did you advance in your career?” The Lord’s not going to say, “How much did you learn or how many football games did you watch or how many baseball games did you enjoy?”
The Lord’s going to be asking questions related to, how well did we grow spiritually? Were we faithful with what the Lord gave us, and have we grown to spiritual maturity? Anything else that we did is not going to be an issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ. So we need to focus on personal worship of the Lord.
That’s what this woman is doing. She recognizes the priority of who Jesus is and what He is doing and she is giving all that she can which is an incredible amount that it shocks the disciples.
The result is that she will be rewarded for this.
Matthew 26:13, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
She will be spoken of as we’re speaking of her today, as an example, as a model for each and every believer.
In contrast to this, you get the unbeliever, Judas Iscariot, and he doesn’t value the Lord at all. In fact, he’s going to betray Him for only 30 pieces of silver, which is the price of a slave. It was a very, very small price compared to the annual wage of a laborer that is the value of that spikenard. He’s going to betray Jesus for this.
Now we’ll get into Judas a little more, but what I want to close with today day is some thoughts about worship. Just some quick summary points, and then a focused application.
1. Worship is God-centered; its Christ-centered. It’s not me-centered.
That applies to everything we do in life because our whole life is supposed to be a worship of God, but it applies to corporate worship.
Many, and if I might say most, of contemporary music and contemporary worship is all about what it does to the individual. It’s all about me, me, me. You hear the first person pronoun all the time in these contemporary choruses.
Worship is grounded in understanding who Jesus is and what He did for us. That’s a difference between her and the disciples. That means that she has an understanding of the content of Jesus’ message. They don’t. That’s why I teach because, folks, it’s not about music. It’s not about how you feel.
It’s about the content of the Word that we assimilate into our thinking and our lives. It is to be content-oriented, not experience-oriented. But we live in a world today where Christianity has been perverted into an experience-based religion rather than a content-based relationship.
2. True worship is not a religion.
It’s a relationship. It’s walking with the Lord, walking by the Holy Spirit. It is based on understanding who He is from the Scripture, but having a relationship with Him. It’s not limited to the Bible, but the Bible is the framework, the foundation, the skeleton of that relationship.
3. Worship removes self from the equation.
The focus isn’t about me or what that message does to me or what my experience on Sunday morning meant to me. “Wasn’t that wonderful? Didn’t that lift you up to Heaven?” They are all false criteria! They are not biblical criteria! The issue is what did I learn about God, what is He saying about my response to Him, and how does that change my thinking to think biblically.
4. True worship is grounded on Jesus as the Messiah.
We have to understand Who He is. That’s what’s going on. She’s anointing His head. I’m not sure why the feet is important, but I understand the head anointing. That is what happened to the kings of Israel: their head was anointed.
She understands Who Jesus is as the promised and prophesied king whose offer of the Kingdom has been postponed. So true worship is grounded on Christ as the Jesus is the promised Messiah.
5. Worship is grounded on Christ’s death on the Cross.
It’s the focal point of what He did. The resurrection has to do with the life that comes after, and resurrection is always connected to the new life we have in Jesus. But the death of Jesus is related to the payment for sin, where the debt is canceled.
6. Worship is costly.
If you’re going to be in Bible class or take 3, 4, 5, 6 hours a week to study the Word, then you’re going to be doing that instead of something else. It’s always going to involve a choice and sacrifice. It may limit things that you can do to advance your career. But guess what? If God wants you promoted, God’s going to get you promoted.
It’s amazing how many people can give so much of their time and their energy to learning about the Lord and serving the Lord, and yet their careers don’t suffer. Because they put the Lord first, He’s going to take care of the other things.
7. Deuteronomy 6:5 says that we’re to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our “oomph”—whatever the word is.
See the Hebrew word there is just sort of undefined and it sort of has the idea with all your “oomph”. It not a word that is really clear, but that’s everything we’ve got. That’s a framework for worship.
Now let me talk about another kind of worship. We talk about corporate worship, we talk about individual worship. But—and I’m a day late and a dollar short on this—family worship. Sometimes when you plan things out, something interferes. I missed a Sunday because of the surgery, and so I’m a week off on Father’s Day, and a lot of fathers aren’t here, but they’ll hear it.
First of all, there’s family worship. Let’s talk about family worship. Under ideal family conditions, the Bible says there are to be two parents, a mother and a father, a male and a female, and they together rear their children. The father, though, is the spiritual head of the home.
We recognize that there are exceptions. There were exceptions in the ancient world. There were wives whose husbands were killed or who died, and they had to raise their children alone. Three were wives whose husbands were traveling merchants or whatever and they we’re gone 95% of the time. There’ve always been cases where there are single-parent homes—always.
Today it is a plague on our culture. We have often heard, you’ve heard me say, you’ve heard others say, “As goes the believer, so goes the nation.” I want to add—there’s something missing there—“As goes the believer, so goes the family. As goes the family, there goes the nation.” Because if the family is in failure—and in this country it is on life support—there goes the nation.
Because the family, as God has built it, is that core that transmits the values of the family and the education from one generation to the other. You can’t farm it out to public school. You can’t farm it out to a private school. You can’t farm it out to Sunday School.
The responsibility belongs with the father, not the father and the mother. Moms—in many cases in this country, the moms are the ones who are, well, you read the Bible story—if there is that much. It’s the mother that’s concerned with that. That’s a home that’s in spiritual failure.
I first recognized this in my first pastorate. I had a lot of men in the church. It was down in La Marque, and a lot of them were shift workers, and a lot of times they can only get to church on Sunday maybe once a month. So a lot of them just, why go if I can only go once a month. They never showed up in the middle of the week, if they could. It was difficult, but rather than surmounting the challenge, they just gave up on trying to be part of church.
One day a mother came to me, and she said, she is talking about her little four year old, and she’s trying to get him ready to go to church, and he said, “Why do I have to go to church? I’m a man. Men don’t go to church.” Think about that. Think about how many families represent that, because the men are spiritually absent.
The men are to be engaged spiritually and, fathers when you show up at the Judgment Seat of Christ, one of the issues is going to be did you raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? That’s going to be the issue. It is not going to matter how well you are educated, how well you physically and financially provided for the family.
What matters is did you provide for the family spiritually, and rear your children [in the nuture and admonition of the Lord] from birth to the time they left? I didn’t say from the time they were 5, 6, 7—from birth until the time they left.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “… and you, fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath.”
What that is saying is—it’s not saying don’t discipline your children—it’s saying don’t discipline them wrongly. Fathers’ responsibility is to discipline children and that doesn’t begin when they’re old enough to understand what’s going on. That is a misunderstanding that is extremely dangerous.
You start educating your children the very first day because let me tell you, that little computer inside that little bitty head is just processing everything, and whether you think they can understand you or not, they can. It’s forming frameworks within their head for dealing with life. And they’re observing and observing and observing and observing, and one day they will start talking.
Don’t wait till then to start teaching them. You’ve waited too long. Don’t wait till they can read or write, or engage you in interesting conversation or you are a failure spiritually. It starts at the moment of birth.
Fathers, you ought to be reading Bible stories to your children from the moment they are born. They’re processing that. Another thing you can do is play music, good music, hymns for your kids. They’ll hear the music, they’ll process those words. When they get to be 5 or 6 they’re going to be familiar to them because they’ve heard that.
See what we’re doing is fathers are failures because they’re so focused on “I gotta make my boy a good ballplayer.” I don’t think Jesus is concerned about that. “I’m going to make my daughter great in dance or in music or whatever.” Jesus isn’t going to be concerned about that.
I’m not saying those things are wrong. I’m saying that if you’re doing that and you’re not getting them focused spiritually, then you’re a failure. At the Judgment Seat—it doesn’t matter what kind of success you are between now and the time you die—what matters is what happens at the Judgment Seat of Christ: living today in light of eternity.
Another thing that happens is that when fathers turn the responsibility over to mothers, then the sons will become effeminized. We have a crisis in this country of masculinity. Men don’t know what it means to be men anymore. Women aren’t too sure what it means to be women anymore, and when you have that kind of gender confusion, then it’s going to lead to real problems.
In Ephesians 6:4 it says we’re to bring them up in training and admonition. The word PAIDEIA is a word that has a broad range. It means instruction—that would be formal instruction; discipline—that includes teaching them to be self-controlled; but it also involves the negative of giving him a swat on the twat if they need it, and if they require it.
Proverbs 10:13 says, “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.”
Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son.” I don’t care what you think about corporal discipline. God says if you spare the rod, you hate your son. You hate your children. You’re a failure, period, over and out.
I don’t care how many books you read on how to rear children, if you’re not reading The Book, then you’re a failure as a parent. And you need to get focused on the Word of God and on what that means. That’s what PAIDEIA means: training, education.
The word “admonition” NOUTHESIA has the idea of giving advice, reminding them of the truth, teaching them formally and informally, warning them about the dangers of going down different paths.
Deuteronomy gives a pattern. It’s in the Law, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to Christians in the Church Age. Deuteronomy 6:6, God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart”—that’s in your mind and your thinking.
That means, parents you need to so internalize the Word of God in your life that you can creatively take care of teaching moments when they occur, and not go home and say, “You know, I had an opportunity yesterday”—too late. This has got to be part of your training in your mind because if you have a child, your responsibility is to train that child to be a believer and to live a spiritual life and to pursue spiritual maturity. Your job is not just to make sure he’s going to work out fine in this culture, that’s a failure.
God says, “… these words which I command you today”—first of all—“shall be in your heart” Once it’s in your heart, Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach them diligently.” That word in the Hebrew means to sharpen, to put a fine edge on them, to hone them. You shall hone your children—“and you shall talk of them”—that is of the things that God commands, of His Word. You “… shall talk of them when you sit in your house”—you’re sitting around and your kid says something and you say, “Well, wait a minute. What does the Bible say about that?”
I remember when I came home from school one day and I had heard that the moon was created by some sort of explosion on the earth and it was sent out, and my mother says, “Let sit and talk about what the Word of God says. Read Genesis 1.” I read Genesis 1 and said, “Golly, I guess they were wrong.”
That’s how it works. You take advantage of those opportunities. And folks, if you’re not spending time with your kids, you’ve missed those opportunities.
I was privileged. My mother was home all the time. When you get two parents working outside the home, opportunities are missed. You cannot hire somebody to take your place when it comes to these areas. It doesn’t happen. You’ll be a failure.
“You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Now tell me any time in life that doesn’t fit in sitting down, walking, lying down, or rising up. See that includes all your life. You take advantage of those teaching opportunities when you’re with your kids. But if you don’t know the Word of God where you can do it, then you can’t do it.
Deuteronomy 6: 8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets for your eyes.” Now that’s metaphorical language. This is going to be on your hand—with what you do things. So what you do is going to be controlled by the Word of God. And frontlets between your eyes is going to control what you look at and what you focus on.
What we have to do to have godly parents is they have to spend time with their kids. They have to have family time. Mom and dad need to sit down, they need to set aside a regular time, get up in the morning. Just pray with the kid. Teach them about the sin nature. Teach them that you can obey God or not. You can obey your parents or not. You have volition. You have a yes button, you have a no button, and you need to teach them that from infancy. Don’t wait till you think they can understand. That’s too late.
My mother said the first complete sentence I knew: she knew the words, so she wasn’t just being prescient; she just knew the words. The first complete sentence I said was if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I learned that when I was two years old. Was I a believer? No! See start training your kids.
Don’t wait till they become a believer. Frontload their mind with the Word of God and Bible stories and biblical principles and memorizing verses, so when they hit God consciousness, they’re going to be like the daughter of a friend of mine who took her two-year-old with her to Good News Clubs week after week after week. At the end of Good News Clubs, those of you who work with them, what’s the last thing you do? You give the kids an invitation.
So mother would give the kids the invitation, you want to believe in Jesus? Got in the car and her little girl, little Ginger, 2½ said, “Mommy, you always let the other kids believe in Jesus. Can I believe in Jesus?” 2½! She heard the gospel week in and week out from the time she was a just-born infant. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
You say, “Well, I don’t know any Christians who do that.” That’s because you’re hanging out with loser believers!
The parents’ job is to build good habits of thinking and priorities into the children from the get-go, not from when they think they’re ready. From the very beginning. That goes with manners, that goes with etiquette; that goes with everything in life. We wait too long in our culture before we think kids are ready. We’ve already let their sin natures get real control.
We are to worship as a family. That’s part of it. See the value here is on the focus on Jesus. Is Jesus what your life is about? Occupation with Christ? Or is your life about making sure you can accomplish everything you want to accomplish in this life and, well, eternity will take care of itself. That’s the issue. How you answer that determines whether you’re positive or negative.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to focus on You, to be reminded that You’re the priority. It’s not about us, it’s about You. And we have the example of this unnamed woman who is talked about not because of who she is or family relationship or any of those factors, but just because she put her focus on You and she was totally sold out to worshiping You.
“I don’t think that distracted from any of the rest of her life, because when we focus on You, You will add to our lives all that is needed, and You will bless us and take care of us.
“Father, we pray that anyone listening will recognize that this isn’t how you get saved, but this is how you live if you’re saved. How you get saved is to trust in Jesus: to believe in Him, to put Him first, to recognize that He is the One who died on the Cross for your sins.
“That you recognize that He is the Savior, that He died in our place, He paid for our sins, and that the way we appropriate that is simply by believing in Him, trusting in Him and Him alone for our salvation.
“Father, we pray that as we leave from here that we will think about these things, that God the Holy Spirit will drive them deep into our souls and challenge us.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”