What Will Your Memorial Be?
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Matthew 26:6-26:13 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
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What will your memorial be? If someone looks back on your life years from now, what will they remember about you?
None of us will probably have our names in the history books of the future. What is more likely to happen is that we will be remembered by those whose lives we’ve touched.
The woman in today’s Bible reading touched the life of Jesus. He was so captivated by her sacrifice that He proclaimed that what she did would become a memorial to her.
In one act she demonstrated what her life was all about.
This Memorial Day we remember those who demonstrated their priorities by giving the supreme sacrifice. Men and women of the armed forces fought and died so that others might have liberty.
It is always sobering to reflect on the reality that the liberties we enjoy today came at a great cost.
So we pause as a nation to express our recognition and to collectively say we won’t forget.
The woman who acted kindly and compassionately toward Jesus has not been forgotten either. It is so because Jesus knew her example would teach us important truth.
This incident teaches us the importance of perceiving the true value of things. This woman took a very expensive jar of perfume and lavished it on Jesus. To her, there was no question that Jesus was worth the price she paid. To the disciples who witnessed the occasion, it was an act of waste. (Verse 8)
How could her deed be interpreted so harshly by the disciples?
Was it because, as a woman, she was more sentimental than the men? Do women perceive the importance of showing their love more than men? Do men say, "I love you", and fail to show "I love you"? Generally; yes, unless they have matured in how they relate to others.
Men don’t always perceive that showing someone you love them with a tangible gift once in a while is not wasteful. Subtle hint guys: bring your wife a gift once in a while even if it’s not her birthday or your anniversary. And wives, if your husband brings you something to show he loves you, please don’t respond by saying, "What have you done wrong now?"
Men, you might even want to make your gift an act of service. Ken Davis in "Lighten Up", tells this story.
"For the first 15 years of my marriage, I was a terrible husband. Diane had a full-time job, became my secretary, mothered our daughters, and waited on me hand and foot without demanding that I lift a finger to help. I loved my wife very much, but I hadn’t learned how to show my love. God used a vaccum cleaner to teach me.
"First, I learned that our cat was terrified of vacuum cleaners. That kept me entertained for about an hour. Then, as I vacuumed in one direction, a stripe would appear. Entranced, I striped the whole room. Then I went crossways, creating a checkerboard pattern. I got so carried away that I dusted the furniture and straightened the entire house.
"I was in my easy chair once again when Diane came home. She struggled through the door with a bag of groceries under each arm, kicked the door shut with one foot, and then took in the house with an expert glance. Her mouth dropped open. Slowly the bags slipped from her grasp and dropped to the floor. ’Who did this?’ she asked.
"’I did’, I said.
"Without warning, she attacked. Diving on me, she smothered me with kisses and hugs, showering gratitude on me. The kisses grew more passionate. We broke the chair!
"The vacuum taught me an important lesson: Love is expressed with more than just words."
Jesus did not chide this woman for financial irresponsibility (as His disciples did). He memorialized her for perceiving what was most important.
If we work 60-80 hours a week and have plenty of money in the bank but neglect our family, our church, and our community - have we really given ourselves to what is the most important?
Do we perceive that it is wasteful to put Christ first in our lives?
Last month’s Christianity Today carried the article, "Pink Slips at Non-Profits". Giving to many national religious organizations has decreased since the stock market is down, and large sums of money were donated to disaster relief after the Semptember 11 terrorist attacks.
For instance, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association saw a $20 million decline in contributions in one year. They were forced to lay off employees, just like Focus on the Family, which let employees go for the first time in its 26 year history.
Ecomomic ups and downs are something we all deal with - but there was a very insightful comment from the article. Sylvia Ronsvalle, excecutive vice president of empty tomb, inc., and co-author of "The State of Church Giving Through 2000", a comprehensive study that begins with the year 1968, said this: "If giving reflects the economy, then why didn’t the study show giving going up when the economy was good?"
Ronsvalle said leaders have trained Christians to be crisis givers. She said not many are taught properly about true biblical stewardship, which includes tithing, or giving ten percent. The empty tomb study showed mainline and evangelical churchgoers gave only an average of 4 percent of their earnings to the church.
Let’s pause and make a few things clear. What a person gives is between them and God. Some of you are in situations where your marriage partner isn’t a Christ follower so you can’t always give what you would like to give. Some of you are on fixed incomes. Some of you have special financial situations right now and you can’t give all you would like to give. No one at our church is going to personally confront you about your giving.
But consider this. There was another woman in Jesus’ day who was also commended for her giving. (Yes, guys, its a woman again.)
One day Jesus was standing by the treasury of the temple observing the gifts people brought. (Which goes to prove Jesus observes our giving.) A widow woman came along and put in two copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Jesus said this woman on a fixed income contributed more than all the big givers that preceeded her. How? "All these people gave their gifts ouf of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:4)
It’s not the size of your gift that matters as much as the size of your heart for God!
K. P. Yohannan, a former Hindu from India, and now the head of Gospel for Asia tells a moving story in his book, "Revolution in World Missions".
When he first began sharing the burden for proclaiming the gospel and planting churches in Asia, a woman here in America on a fixed income wanted to help. So the first thing she did was disconnect her telephone and television and sent the money she saved each month to Yohannan to invest in telling people in Asia about Jesus.
She gave faithfully every month for quite some time and the amount never decreased. It wasn’t a large gift, but it was consistently given.
One month, a note was attached to her check and it went something like this: "I don’t miss my telephone and television. Not having them gives me more time to pray and study my Bible and visit others in need. I also realized I really didn’t need to bathe in hot water or wash my clothes or dishes in hot water so I’ve had my hot water heater turned off. Please find enclosed an increase in my monthly gift and please keep sharing the gospel with those who have never heard about Jesus."
Like the woman in our scripture, this woman not only knew what is important, but she also acted on her core belief by making a personal sacrifice.
Tomorrow, on Memorial Day, we honor the sacfrices of brave men and women. Why would they pay such a valuable price? Because they were purchasing something far more valuable than life itself - liberty!
That is what sacrifice does - it gives up something valuable to gain something even more valuable!
In baseball, a batter will often bunt or intentionally hit a pop fly to deep center field to advance a runner. The player’s appearance at the plate goes down in the record books as a "sacrifice". He was more productive in giving up his chance to run the bases because he helped the team have a chance to win.
The woman with the very expensive jar of perfume perceived that Jesus was soon going to die. (Again, her perception was greater than that of the disciples!) She knew that her sacrifice paled in comparison to that of her Savior. In her eyes it was a very small thing to give up her valuable possession to anoint the body of Jesus for burial since He had and was going to give up so much for her!
And so today we remember her. And who else do we remember? We remember others who gave of themselves in sacrficial ways to lavish upon us our blessings.
What will people remember you for?
Live to be remembered for the important things. Live to be remembered for giving up your rights and your possessions for the benefit of others. Live for acts of kindness that lighten the load of those who are hurting and weary. Jesus will remember these things too.