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Alabaster jar lesson 2: Be burning coals, not thermometers

Rev. Enoch Thompson | September 3, 2023 | Matthew 26:6-13


When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." Matthew 26:8-9 (NIV)


It is good to do good, but it is better to do good when it is most needed and when it has the greatest effect and usefulness. That sounds a mouthful, and may be complicated on the first hearing, but think about it. Sometimes the good that we do is like charming the snake after it has bitten. Wisdom says, “If a snake bites before it is charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.” (Eccl 10:11), NIV.

The generous worship of the woman, of expressing her deep faith in the Lord Jesus as the Christ (the Anointed One), by anointing Him with her best, and her expression of her deep loyalty and worship to Him by pouring her expensive perfume on His head was met with the critical criticism and anger of the disciples. Yes, I said disciples. They who should have applauded this woman, and joined with her in her ecstasy of worship criticised her and made her look foolish and wasteful.

Sometimes our criticism of those who are going all out in their worship of the Lord is because we ourselves are not doing enough, and are ashamed, jealous, or dwarfed by the actions of the victims of our criticism. When we cannot express emotions in worship because we have become so callous and insensitive, we choose to underate those who can express emotions because they are child-like and are able to let the rivers of their affections flow. Sadly, some of us who can break down and weep because our football team lost the match are too gentle-manly and lady-like to shed tears in vulnerable times of worship. Some of us are too sophisticated to dance in Church during times of praise to the Lord and castigate our dancing church members as being too ticklish, but the same we can dance away at parties and other social functions.

The disciples had failed to understand all that the Lord had been saying about His approaching death and had not been able to bring their minds to understanding the circumstances that would surround His death. They did not envisage that there would not be time to properly anoint and care for the body of the Lord because the circumstances would not allow it. In fact, it would take a divine intervention for His body to be released to them for a proper burial. And yet this woman who saw with the eyes of faith and lent herself to fore-anoint the Saviour against His death was seriously censored and castigated for what the Master Himself endorsed. The disciples turned themselves into thermometers, measuring the spiritual fervour of others, when they should have been coals of fire, burning to raise the spiritual temperature expected to be produced by the teachings of the Master!


Do you blame others for their fervency and fervour in their discipleship life and the seriousness they attach to their Christian commitment? Do you think you are more decent in your faith expression, and that others are below your dignity in the way they express their faith? You may have a point where those expressions are meaningless religious formalities, but who are you to judge?

Whenever you feel like venting out such criticism stop and ask yourself why you are doing much less in your time alone with God, in personal Bible reading and study, in attendance to group Bible study and prayer, and in the general assembly of the church. You may want to and need to avoid unnecessary excesses which are mistaken for true spirituality when they are mere formalities. Don’t be a thermometer, be a burning coal, and let God alone test the temperatures!


Lord, I get distracted into watching others run and passing commentaries on how they run, while I fail to run. I misjudge others for things that you approve of others. Please forgive me and help me to focus on running to please you. May my life be the attraction to others to follow you. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.


SHOWERS! BLESSINGS!! _________________________ DAILY word study: INDIGNANT The word "indignant" in verse 8 of Matthew 26 is translated from the Greek word "ἀγανακτέω" (aganakteo).

This Greek verb describes a strong emotional response, often translated as "to be greatly displeased," "to be angry," or "to be indignant." It conveys a sense of being upset or annoyed.

The disciples' indignation reflects a common human tendency to assess actions based on material value and practicality rather than spiritual significance. They are concerned about the apparent waste of resources on something they view as non-essential. However, Jesus responds by highlighting the spiritual and symbolic significance of the woman's action, connecting it to His impending death and burial.

This passage invites us to examine our own reactions to acts of devotion and worship. Are we sometimes quick to judge or question the sincerity of worship when it appears extravagant or unconventional? It reminds us that true worship and devotion to Christ may not always align with human logic or material assessment.

Reflections How can you ensure that your perspective on acts of devotion and worship is aligned with the spiritual significance and sincerity behind them, rather than being solely driven by practical or material considerations?

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