One Hand in the Money Bag


John 12:1-8 tells the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. Following this, Judas pipes up, “what a waste! This could have been sold and the money given to the poor,” at which point John makes this comment, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

When I’ve read this story before my focus has always been on Mary, and rightly so, her extravagant gift is inspiring. But in his observation about Judas it is like John is keen not just to show the level of Mary’s devotion, but to contrast Mary with Judas.

Mary takes something of hers which is of enormous value and uses it for the sole purpose of worshipping Jesus. Jesus’ response in the passage could be understood to mean that Mary had been saving this perfume for a time like this, it was a deliberate act. Whilst Mary gives what she has to Jesus, Judas takes what is Jesus’ for himself.

I’m sure there are many applications here, but my mind turned to our times of corporate worship. When we gather together with other believers, is our focus, our premeditated desire, to bring our worship to God? To bring our time, energy, thoughts, and our attention to Him? Or do we come to worship with one hand in the money bag, seeing what we can get for ourselves?

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that we should not look for God’s blessing as we gather to worship; in the chapter before this story Mary sought Jesus and enjoyed receiving from Him as her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead. God loves to pour out His blessing on His people as we gather in His name, and elsewhere in scripture we are encouraged to desire this blessing. It is also important to remember that God is glorified as He blesses us since His blessing reveals His gracious, loving, generous nature. These two things are far from mutually exclusive. No, it is not that we shouldn’t look for, hope for and expect God’s blessing as we worship; the question left in my mind following this story is this: when I come to worship, which do I desire more? The glory of God through what I can bring, or the blessing of God in what He can do for me?

By Sam Priest