Against the Pinched
“…a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the discplies saw it, they were angry and said, “why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” – Matthew 26,6-13
OK, so the disciples were obviously right here. They’d been listening to Jesus, and they knew what the faithful do with rich things: sell them and give them to the poor. Jesus had said as much, to the rich young man who’d asked him how to get eternal life. They were only following what he’d told them.
On the other hand, they were using his words as a weapon—and that just never sits well with Jesus. When the letter of the law gets in the way of the Spirit of praise, when the rules are used to elevate oneself over others, when those who love God so much they can’t help it get beaten down by those who are and must always be “right”, Jesus gets mad. Against the pinched and petty, against the always-prudent, against those whose following of commandments gets in the way of their devotion to God, Matthew tells this story of spontaneous and unseemly devotion.
Today, find a way to loosen up, let go, and worship God as the unnamed woman did. Do something unexpected: skip across the room for joy, write a big check to a charity, sing a nonsense song of praise, dance around like a fool for God. Be spontaneous, unseemly, even wasteful in your worship, and for once, don’t worry about what the rest of us think.
God, help me to live a life of praise, open to you and unpinched by judgement. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.