Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Worshipping 'ministry' rather than Christ

Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.

Judas Iscariot: How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn’t she sell it? It is worth nearly a year’s wages; the money could have been given to the poor.

This had nothing to do with Judas’s desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.
John 12:3-6

I wonder how often we are Judas in this story, rather than Mary.

The perfume she poured over Jesus was worth a years wages. It is true that amount of money could help a lot of people.

But Jesus is more important than people. Yes, you heard me. Even poor people.

But doesn't Jesus care about poor people? Of course He does. And of course he wants us to care about them also. He wants us to love others as He does. But the thing is, if we are focused on the others without first focusing on Jesus, then we are actually missing the point.

Jesus is more important. If we can get that, and truly live it, then our lives will become Christlike. Then the compassion and service and ministry to others will follow, as Jesus leads.

But if we focus on 'doing' - even if it is for others - and just try to add Jesus in to it, then we have made 'ministry' our idol and object of worship.

Perhaps we are trying to cover up our own fallibility, insecurity or guilt. Deflect from our own faults. Or gain for ourselves. Like Judas. If we make an obvious show of how much we care for others, perhaps people won't notice how broken we still are ourselves. Perhaps others will look up to us. Perhaps we can even fool ourselves into thinking that we are 'good' enough because of everything we sacrifice for others.

How much of our desire to help those 'less fortunate' comes from our love for Jesus overflowing, and how much comes from self focused desires?

It is a tough question and sometimes takes laying bare the deepest corners of your heart and motivations.

How can something 'good' be bad?
When it's motivated by self and not love.

It's a question I've had to ask myself. In writing this blog. In wanting to go on volunteer and missions trips. All 'good' things, objectively. But too much of my motivation at times rested in myself, and not in God.

Have you ever told God you are willing to sacrifice anything for Him, but heard yourself add in the mental footnotes a few conditions about what that actually looks like, about the recognition, about how much, how often or where?

Are we willing to pour out our whole jar of perfume - our whole life in worship - on Jesus feet, regardless of how others react, regardless of how 'wasteful' it seems to the natural mind to not be 'doing' something more.

Even when we truly want to be serving Jesus, we often find it difficult to take the time to just lay everything down at His feet first. To stop and be lavishly excessive with our worship and praise and sacrifice.

Just worship. Without thinking of what we are getting, what others are thinking, what we will do with it later...

What use is all the service and ministry we can muster if we didn't give it all to Jesus first.

I hope it's clear I'm not saying doing things in service of God and others in bad. I'm not saying helping the poor is bad. Of course not! How we love others is a direct and natural result of how we love God.

But I think this time is coming where we will be called on to do big things, to have great compassion, to radically change the world and radically love those whom others have oppressed and ignored.

If we are going to do that right, we need Jesus. We need to know what it means to really pour out ourselves in worship of God first. Because if we can't first give ourselves wholly and unreservedly to Jesus, then we will never be able to do it for others. There will always be a large portion of 'self' tying it up.

No matter how much we act or give or do, it will be empty. No matter how powerful and influential our lives seem to be, without Jesus as Lord first of all, our lives will be shallow. And what is the good in our 'good' deeds if they are motivated by self. If we end up saying 'Lord, Lord' only to hear "I never knew you."

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