What's In Your Alabaster Box?
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner." … "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." - Luke 7.36-39, 47
I want to begin by asking you to consider two important questions as we prepare to take a closer look at this passage: “Am I a grateful person?” and “What do I have to offer?”
Question number one: Am I a grateful person?
A mother and young son stopped by a fruit stand. The owner noticed the boy eyeing the bright oranges and offered him one. The boy took the orange and began to walk away. His mother stopped him and said, ‘Billy, what do you say?” Billy thought for a moment and then handed the orange back to the man and said, “Peel it.”
We are spoiled people. Entitlement and expectation trump gratitude and thankfulness any day. The woman in this passage had no expectations when she crashed Simon’s party. All she wanted to do was show Jesus her gratitude. In contrast, Simon stood at a distance and judged her. If it weren’t for the fact that he was probably trying to trip Jesus up, I’m sure he would have had her thrown out of his house forcefully.
I have to check my motives every day to make sure that I am living my life like “the woman who had lived a sinful life” and not like Simon the Pharisee. I intentionally remind myself that I am a sinner saved by grace; not in an attempt to justify the sin in my life, but to experience afresh the love and grace of my Savior and move forward in love instead of pride and judgment. Max Lucado talks about the 747 Principle (from the 47th verse of Chapter 7 of Luke) “…he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” The more we remind ourselves of God’s Amazing Grace and Love for us, and remember that we fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23) the better off we’ll be; and, I think, the more grateful we’ll be.
Question number two: “What do I have to offer?”
This woman was probably a prostitute. Her livelihood depended upon her attractiveness. She carried an alabaster box or vial of perfume around with her to attract the men. This perfume was probably not cheap. She offered this perfume to Christ. She offered him her tears (perhaps tears of regret and shame, perhaps tears of joy and gratitude). She offered him her hair, part of her beauty. She offered him her heart. This woman offered Christ all that she had. She could not have been sure when she entered that home, that this man wouldn’t treat her as all other men did. She ran the risk of being used, abused and scorned by this man in the same way that she surely had been mistreated every day by other men. But she took the chance. And it paid off. Jesus forgave her. Did she change? Did she give up her life of sin? We don’t know. But her example of gratitude and generosity is worth replicating.
Too many people I know think they have nothing to offer to God. We all have something. What’s in your alabaster box? What is unique about you? What can you do with what you’ve got where you are with the time you have?
Have you ever figured out your SHAPE?
Spiritual gifts. What specific spiritual gifts has God given you? Are you a teacher, a helper, a mercy-giver, a prophet, and pastor, an encourager?
Heart. What do you love? If you could only do one thing in life, what would it be?
Abilities. What are you good at? What is the thing that when you do it people take notice?
Personality. What kind of person are you? Are you an introvert, and extrovert, a thinker, a feeler? Your personality doesn’t change. You are unique.
Experiences. What kinds of experiences have you had? Are there certain things that you’ve been doing over and over again since you were young; activities or causes that you are continually drawn to?
Put them all together and you have your unique SHAPE (this concept was developed by Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life). Once you’ve figured out who you are, you can begin figuring out what you have to offer.
Julie Meyer sings a beautiful song called Alabaster Box. Here is a portion of it:
All I am is all I have
And all, all I have to give, and I give it all to You
It’s my fragrant oil, it’s my costly perfume
I’ll take my alabaster box and I, I break it open.
Let the fragrance arise.
May gratitude and generosity rise up within you this day. May you be mindful of the fact that you have been forgiven much, so that you can love much. May you look inside your alabaster box, recognize all that you have to offer, pour it out to God and to others as an offering of worship and love, and let the fragrance arise!