Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. 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.”
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.” (Matthew 26:6–13 NLT)
Last week, Pastor Aaron Brockmeier noted that of the nine Spirit-inspired virtues listed in Galatians 5:22–23, three of them – love, joy, and peace – are directed upward toward God, three – faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – are primarily inward qualities, and the remaining three – patience, kindness, and goodness – are outward in nature, directed toward our fellow man. While all the fruit must be recognizable in our lives to those we interact with – all of them must entail some kind of visible manifestation as we go about our days – it is patience, kindness, and goodness that are especially concerned with our attitude and actions toward other people. Throughout the Old Testament, the word we read in English as kindness has often been translated from the Hebrew word hesed. Other ways to translate hesed include goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness. When we are showing kindness toward others, we are also expressing goodness, acting merciful, and being loving toward them.
Simply put, you cannot be kind to someone without putting their needs above your own. While there are limits to this – an enflamed firefighter would do more harm than good if they attempted to rescue a child trapped in a burning building – there is no such thing as a sacrifice-free act of kindness.
At its core, kindness is about lovingly serving another through sacrificing something of ourselves: time, money, skill, resources. For the entirety of Jesus’s ministry, he served as the ultimate example of this, so it should be no wonder to us when we see it in action in one of his followers. When the woman with the alabaster jar anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume, it was a sacrificial act of worship. She didn’t know, as Jesus describes it, she was helping prepare Christ’s body for burial; she simply saw her act of loving-kindness toward her Lord as a sacrifice she needed to make.
If Jesus were to be eating at our neighbor’s house, we’d likely jump at the chance to make some sort of sacrificial act as a display of our loving-kindness toward him. But are we willing to do the same for the single parent fighting to get by, or the homeless woman rifling through our trash, or the lonely widower with no family left to care for him?
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40).