Life had been going very well for us since I took the job as a commercial banker in Seattle. I had relative success with work. Stephanie and I were finally living in the area we wanted to raise our kids long term. We were close to buying a house. We were out of debt. Things were solid and we finally felt like we were able to set roots long term. We felt like we could finally breathe.
As I sat hearing a quick sermon about Mary and her jar, all the good things that God had given me flashed through my mind. “What is my alabaster jar?” I thought to myself. I think it would be helpful to tell the story for context.
It’s just before Jesus was going to be crucified. He had already told his disciples that he was going to die when they got to Jerusalem but none of them believed him. Why would they? He’s the Messiah. The one promised to, according to popular belief, overthrow the Roman empire and usher in the golden age of prosperity for Israel. He couldn’t do that if He was dead. Jesus wasn’t making any sense to the disciples and I’m sure they wrote it off as nerves before the fight. They were at the doorstep of Jerusalem about to start the revolution and walk victoriously into history.
At dinner, a girl named Mary walked into the room carrying an expensive jar made of alabaster. Mary was one of many recipients of Jesus’ incredible grace. The jar she carried was filled with perfume. The value of the jar represented a year’s worth of the average income in a single object. Take a second and think about what that would mean for you. A year’s worth of your income in a savings account. That was a pretty hefty penny for me in my cushy bank job. For Mary, the jar probably represented security. It was doubtful she was able to save that much money to buy it. If you saved up a year’s worth of salary would you spend it on fancy perfume? My guess is you have other priorities. Mary probably inherited this from her family. Regardless of where she obtained the jar, it meant a lot to her. If the house burned down she could buy another place to live. If someone got sick, she could get them medicine. If an army invaded, she could bargain for her freedom. The jar was a really good gift that God gave her. It was an insurance policy. It was worth a ton of money. It was her hope in times of trouble.
Mary walked up to Jesus, broke the jar and poured its contents over his feet.
People in the room were shocked. What a waste. Why would she do that? Others in the room probably thought she was going to donate the jar for the cause. This jar could have been sold to fund the revolution. They could have used the money to feed the poor. Why didn’t anyone stop her? Why wasn’t Jesus mad? He looked at Mary with tears in her eyes and explained to everyone in the room that she had done something beautiful. In anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume Mary unknowingly anointed His body for burial. In an instant, she spoke through her actions a message to Jesus that He was more important to her than the most expensive thing she owned. He was her hope, not the jar.
The pleasing fragrance of Mary’s act of worship most likely rose to Jesus’ nose as he was nailed to the cross. It may very well have been a reminder of who He was giving His life for on that cross, abandoned by most He called friends. What a beautiful thing Mary did for Jesus.
I wasn’t really sure why I was crying other than the fact that I always cry when I feel the Holy Spirit begin to stir my heart toward something. I can’t help it. The pastor asked, “What’s your alabaster jar?” The Holy Spirit asked me, “Would you give it to me if I asked for it?”
I pretended for a while to not know what the jar was. Deep down I knew. God have given me a great job, success, and His favor. He even warned me beforehand not to let the worries of the world and the pursuit of riches choke out fruitfulness for His Kingdom. That moment in Austin began a wrestling of sorts. God started to help me release my hold on the security I had that was represented in His gifts but not in Him. I took 9 months for me to fully obey Him.
I walked into my bank managers office on a December day in 2014 and handed him a letter of resignation. My heart was racing and my palms sweaty. What was I doing? Earlier that week I pleaded with God to take the job if He wanted it. His only reply was, “If I take it from you it’s not an act of worship.” He was right. It was finally time to stop wrestling and obey. I would like to think my manager was shocked at my leaving. There was definite confusion as to why I was going. The idea to step away from comfort to go work for a church was understandably foreign to him. To be honest, it was foreign to me. I walked into my boss’s office, took a deep breath and stepped off the cliff of trust that God had asked me to step off. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I walked away from a lot of money and took a job as the executive lead for Reach Church.
God was doing some really cool things with the church and I was excited to have the freedom to give my full effort toward that mission. My time at Reach was wonderful. I learned a lot, was stretched a ton and grew in strides regarding my faith in God. This was just the beginning of a long obedience to His call. He would ask for more alabaster jars over the years. I think He always will ask because He loves. Our heavenly Father knows that our only true joy can be found in Him.
I have no regrets when it comes to surrendering the things God asks of me. I’m also very aware that there will be more surrender to come. I’m not sure what He’s asking you for. I’m not certain He does it the same way with everyone. However, surrender is a good reminder that He is greater to us than the gifts He gives. He’s our hope, especially in times of trouble. He’s the only one we can truly trust with any certainty. In light of that truth, worship with all you are and all you have. Obedience is not easy but it’s worth every penny!