“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me” (Mark 14:7).
Are you wondering what your “Christian liberty” is, that concept we hear so much about? Are you hoping it’s the loophole that allows you to do anything, drink anything, watch anything, listen to anything, and go anywhere? Jesus here gives his own example of Christian liberty in this statement at dinner in a house in Bethany a few days before his death: You are allowed to help poor people anytime you want.
In Galatians, Paul wrote, “Serve one another,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and manifest qualities like “kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Then he ends these exhortations to selfless action by writing, “Against such things there is no law.”
In other words: Have at it! Serve one another as much as you want to—there is no law against it. Love your neighbor as much as you feel like—there is no law against it. Exercise gentleness with total abandon, having no conscience scruples about excess—there is no law against it.
Jesus is calling Judas’ bluff, of course. Judas, the money-keeper of the Twelve, is a thief and cares no more about the poor than the man on the moon, but he objects ostensibly on moral grounds to Mary’s waste of resources in pouring out expensive oil on Jesus feet: “This ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” Jesus tells Judas that he will be able to give as much money to the poor as he wants to after Jesus is gone.
In that one statement, Jesus is also addressing you and me and conferring His approval, for all time, on all charitable giving. Jesus is not here downplaying the importance of sharing with the needy, but merely agreeing with this woman pouring the jar of spikenard that it is eminently appropriate to be lavish in our praise and outpourings to God.
After all, Jesus is the one who recently sent Peter out to satisfy the tax man by throwing a hook into the lake and fishing out the first fish and opening its mouth to extract a coin—thereby illustrating that taxes and expensive perfume are child’s play when you are the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. If you give to Christ, you will not fall short of resources for the poor.