Give Your Best Gifts
By: Noelle Kirchner
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” - Mark 14:3-9
When I was younger, I distinctly remember going to church at Christmastime and seeing the “Giving Trees.” They would be downstairs in the big gym right by the table filled with punch and donuts. The trees would be full of paper Christmas ornaments. Each ornament would have the name of a child on it, along with the child’s age and what he or she wanted for Christmas.
I remember racing downstairs following the service to get my first pick. I’d look for a child who was around my age, because I felt confident shopping for them. It was a treat to help my Mom pick out their Lego or doll. I felt like I was making a difference.
This past Christmas, my sons joined in the effort. It was a different church with different trees, but the same excitement stretched across their faces. By the time they reached the trees, however, there weren’t many ornaments left. I had to grab one from a high branch. I quickly read the information as I juggled my baby: A female teenager wanted an electronics gift card. I smiled at the change in requests from my youth, and we left.
When I got into the car, however, my middle son asked to read the ornament. He pointed out that the description read that the child wanted an electronic and a related gift card for it, not simply a gift card. That was more than I had anticipated spending! We wrestled with the new information and considered what to do. Then, my family and I hatched a plan: Mommy and Daddy would buy the electronic, and my boys would go in together to buy the gift card with some of their saved money. Together, we would give the child her dream gift.
Around that time, I spoke with a family friend who told me a story. She had heard a priest speak once about a sweater. It was an Irish, hand-knit sweater that his mother had made for him, and he treasured it. But when he encountered a man who wished he had such a sweater, the priest took off his beloved sweater and gave it to him. “When we give, we give our best gifts,” the priest later said.
In our scripture passage today, we meet a woman who is doing just that. She is pouring ointment on Jesus’ head that was costly—it was equivalent to a whole year’s worth of wages. While the disciples label her decision as wasteful, Jesus appreciates her devotion and applauds her gift. In fact, her anointing forecasts what is to come for Jesus, and as such, it plays a part in the salvation story.
Occasions to give do not solely arise at Christmas. For the woman with the costly perfume, the opportunity came just before Passover. For us, there may be many times throughout the year to consider giving to others in Jesus’ name. Our intention is what’s important, not the amount (Mark 12:41–44). When we offer our best, whether it’s time, talent, or money, scripture tells us that Jesus will commend us too (Matthew 25:37–40). By doing so, we give the best gift of all—ourselves.
Want ideas to empower children to give? Watch my clip on TODAY.
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book.
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