Trying to do the right thing

While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were INDIGNANT when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Matthew 26:7-9

“Just do the right thing.” Seems like pretty good advice. How hard is it to treat others like you want to be treated? But with a world living more and more in the gray, doing the right thing seems to be more and more complicated. Those complications can come from a lack of information, closed mindedness, being overly opinionated, reacting emotionally, or, often, it is choosing to take the world view rather than the Biblical view. This is nothing new; it has been here since people have been dealing with people.

Curiously you would think doing the right thing would be easier between Christians, but as we examine these Scriptural examples, we see that is not the case. What makes these examples so poignant is the people missing the mark were His followers, and His hand chosen students. But like the Disciples, we are His students, and hopefully, still learning and repenting. And sometimes, we must choose which good thing is the right thing.

Anyone who has had a large gathering at their home can understand how easy it is to become frustrated with all the preparations, and of course the cleanup. The exhaustion from all the daily activities can make the slightest “slight” monumental, and Martha’s feelings so understandable.

Luke 10:38-40 explains Martha’s feelings, As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman names Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was DISTRACTED by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Listen to what Jesus tells Martha, after she has done a wonderful thing preparing food and accommodations for this large entourage accompanying Jesus.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Ouch! Martha has done a good thing and yet, it has soured her heart? Jesus is reminding all of us to check our hearts for motives. Martha has let her emotions dictate her actions, which almost never is a good thing. Take a deep breath and remember to take our joy for Jesus along on our journey.

At times, Jesus’ Disciples would attempt to screen, or perhaps, run interference, in the cities He visited. I am sure they were protective. On one occasion in Matthew 19:13-15 we see this procedure in action.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples SCOLDED the parents for bothering him.

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.

Scolded is defined as “to find fault harshly.” The disciples thought they were doing a good thing saving Jesus’ time from the very people he wanted to see. We must be mindful of our tone when serving God. We must always be careful not to protect the church from the very people who need the church, and more importantly, need Jesus! The church is a hospital for sinners of all shapes and sizes, including those with hard-to-find blemishes.

Finally, we come to the woman with the alabaster box of expensive perfume. It is difficult to understand what business the disciples had with this woman’s act of love to Jesus, other than to say, I don’t think you would want Judas on the benevolence committee. Yes, giving to the poor is a good thing, but being indignant, angry, without knowing the whole story seems “rich”.

Matthew 26:10-13 completes her story, But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

If doing the right thing was difficult for those walking and talking with Jesus daily, it will be difficult for us as well. But it is not some slippery secret stuck between those plastic bags in the produce isle, it resides on the pages of God’s Holy Word, and comes to life in us, at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot pick and choose when to bring our needs before the Lord, we must be consistently calling upon Him for our answers. The three examples in this column could just as easily have been political, cultural, or relational. Believing in our own mind we are doing a good thing doesn’t always mean we are doing the right thing.

Let’s stay patient, pick open the plastic bag, and fill our lives with the right things!

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