My failure to live up to the standard of Jesus has a long, consistent history that has been well chronicled in my lifetime; in fact, I write a new paragraph daily. I am constantly frustrated by my shortcomings, but I have come to understand that until I leave this earth, my sinful human nature will play a role in all I do. Ironically, I become more aware of my flaws the more I study the Bible and learn more about this Jesus. Yet I also learn more about forgiveness and grace.
I have been thinking about good deeds. I find myself drawn to the aspects of the Gospel that emphasize our need to love our neighbors, serve the poor, care for the sick and be active in our faith. I am aware of my sinful nature shining through in these well-intended actions – there is always a sliver of selfishness in selfless deeds; always a moment of reluctance in generosity – but that is not what hit me the other day. I was recently convicted of my motivation for doing such loving acts. Often, Jesus is not the driving force. There should be no other motivation than Jesus. The rest of the world does good for goodness’ sake and I look no different if my love of Jesus is not my motivation for loving my neighbors.
In Mark 14, we read of a woman (believed to be Mary) anointing Jesus’ feet with very expensive oil. Like the disciples, I would have been indignant at such waste. Notice, their reaction was not to save the oil, nor use the money for drinks at the local watering hole, nor a new set of wheels for their wagon; no, their reaction was selfless! They said that the money could have been given to the poor. “Amen!” would have been my reaction. It was not Jesus’. “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer” (Mark 14:6-7; New Living Translation). He commended Mary’s act of devotion to himself.As Oswald Chambers put it in My Utmost for His Highest, “Our Lord is filled with overflowing joy whenever He sees any of us doing what Mary did – not being bound by a particular set of rules, but being totally surrendered to Him.”
Do we pour out ourselves, loving our neighbors because of a deep love for God and His creation? I don’t always. Yet this is the only way because as we give more of ourselves, we are filled with more of Him. “If you believe in me…rivers of living water will flow out from within…” (John 7:38). I encourage you, be reckless in your love of Jesus. At times it will look like service to the poor and needy and others it will be anointing our Lord’s feet. But, as Chambers reminds us, always, we are to “break ‘the flask’ of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him.”