Formations 10.09.2022: From the Heart

John 12:1-11

Years ago, I attended a workshop on worship renewal led by Robert Webber, who was one of the top names in that field in the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ll never forget an illustration he gave us about the attitudes we bring to worship.

Webber asked us to imagine that he was coming home after traveling out of town for a speaking engagement. On the way to his house, he stops at a florist to buy some flowers for his wife. He rings the doorbell and stands on the stoop, and when his wife opens the door, he smiles a big smile and presents her the flowers.

His wife is clearly touched. She gushes and throws her arms around him. “They’re beautiful!” she says. “Why did you bring me flowers?”

Webber sticks out his chest and says, “Duty!” He goes on to explain that he’s the husband, and husbands are supposed to do this kind of thing.

How much better, Webber said, if his answer was more like, “I just missed you. I love you so much that I can’t get enough of you, so I brought you these flowers because I want you to know how special you are to me.”

We get the point, don’t we? Worship pleases God when we want to be there. Our expressions of worship should come from the heart and not from a sense of obligation or the desire to keep up appearances.

In John 12, Mary gave extravagantly when she poured her costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. She didn’t care about the cost. She just wanted to do something for Jesus. There’s no question of her motivation for worship; she loved Jesus deeply and wanted to give her best.

By contrast, Judas is calculating and logical, and perhaps a little greedy. He does occasionally dip into the common purse, after all (v. 6). He wonders why she didn’t sell the perfume and give the money to the poor.

But Jesus defended Mary. Her gift caused a scandal. To Judas, it seemed out of proportion to what Jesus was worth, but maybe that was the problem. When it comes to Jesus, is any gift too big?


• Do you find yourself going to worship, reading the Bible, or practicing other spiritual disciplines more out of love or out of duty? Why do you think this is?
• How can Mary’s extravagant gift be a model for us?
• What does it mean to give something precious, something that we might rather keep for ourselves?
• What is the relationship between giving and worship?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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