Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First things first

This is like a chicken or egg question...which comes first, devotion to Christ or serving the needs of others? Some of you are already saying, “why not both?” Why make the distinction? These are questions on my mind after reading John 12: 1-8.

After raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus visits his home where he also finds Mary and Martha. Over dinner, Mary took a pound of expensive perfume, anointed his feet and wiped them with her hair. Naturally, the house was filled with the rich aroma of this expensive perfume.

Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus, protested that this impulsive display was wasteful. The perfume could have been sold and the money given to support ministries to the poor. John reveals that Judas did not really care about the poor, he had a mercenary motive. He was taking money from the money bag. Jesus then said these words that many quote: The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me. What did he mean?

It’s very easy to sympathize with Judas’ point of view. And yet Jesus seems to be saying that devotion cannot be measured in ministry, or dollars and cents. Devotion to Christ comes first because we can do the right thing for the wrong reason. Devotion comes first because it is the fuel that sustains and empowers ministry to others. Devotion comes first because Jesus warned that on the last day many will come saying, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then the Lord will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me" (Matthew 7: 21-23).

On the other hand, devotion to Christ without serving others, is other-worldly and impractical; busily serving others without devotion and love for Christ distorts that ministry into a burdensome, joyless task.

The danger that we all face is the danger of doing the work of the Lord without the Lord of the work at work in us. It’s no wonder we are called to first love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 34-39).