You may have heard the joke about the donkey, the boy, and the old man heading into town. At first the boy is riding the donkey and people criticize them because the old man is walking. Then they switch places and people criticize them because the boy is walking. They both decide to walk and they get criticized for that, so they both decide to ride and get criticism for putting such a load on the donkey. They decide to carry the donkey because of that criticism and sure enough, they lose the handle on the donkey and he splashes into a river. Obviously, I didn’t do a good job of retelling that joke, so if you want to find it, google “criticism, jokes, donkey” and you can read it from someone who tells the story better. The punch line isn’t the point I want to make, though, it’s the reaction to criticism.
The truth is, whatever you do, you’ll be subject to criticism. Someone will find fault with what you do. If you express and opinion, someone will tell you how wrong you are. If you express a feeling or emotion, someone will let you know that you shouldn’t feel that way. There are always experts ready to tell you what you should do, say, or how you should feel. As Jesus was preparing for His upcoming crucifixion, a woman was led to anoint Him with a very expensive perfume. It had probably been saved for her own burial, yet she anointed Jesus with it. “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.” (Mark 14:4-5)
Yes, the perfume was expensive. It was more than a year’s wages for the average Jew at the time. She probably didn’t know that Jesus was getting ready to die on the cross, but she felt led offer this perfume as a gift to Jesus. This brought out the naysayers. They wanted to know why she offered it to Jesus instead of selling it to give alms to the poor. I wonder, though, what the naysayers themselves did for the poor. If, as I believe, this perfume was bought for her burial, and that was a custom, why didn’t these naysayers, moved by the error of this woman’s ways, go out and sell their own perfume so that they could give to the poor? How many of them even thought about taking some of the food, the rich food they were eating at this banquet, out to some of the poor who were on the outside looking in? My guess is that this lady’s social standing, compared to those at the banquet, was probably poverty. I could be wrong, but I believe that she took the only thing she had of great value, and offered it to Jesus. It triggered Judas, who offered to betray Jesus for money. There was no mention of him giving to the poor.
God has called me to be accountable for the gifts that He has given to me. He hasn’t called me to tell you what to do with your wealth, your gifts, or even your attitudes. This passage is not a criticism of people helping other people in poverty; it’s a passage that highlights the problem of trying to tell other people what to do with what God has given them. It’s a question of stewardship and responding to God’s call in your life. I may not make the same decisions you would make with what God has given to you, but you wouldn’t make the same decisions I would make. If you ask, I might make suggestions. My suggestions would probably not involve indulging yourself – one of the reasons most people don’t ask me what to do with their money. My belief is that God has blessed me so that I can bless others. Sometimes that comes through giving through the church. Sometimes that means giving in other ways. It always means seeking God’s will and being obedient to Him. And since criticism isn’t a spiritual gift, I try to avoid exercising it around others.
Oh Lord, how easy it is for me to be critical of others. Help me to pray for them instead of criticizing.