Gratitude usually brings with it a sense of wanting to do something in return, from saying thanks to giving back. Those of us who know the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, have this huge sense of gratitude. We want to do something in return, not to pay for the gift we have received, but to express our overwhelming sense of gratitude with more than words. However, because He is not physically here, doing something directly for Him becomes a challenge.
This morning I’m reading about Mary, sister of Martha, who “took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
Judas and the other disciples criticized her for this, saying if she wanted to give away her oil, she should have sold it and given the money to the poor. Jesus rebuked them. He said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
He was right; the world always has poor people and we need to help them whenever we can, as He says in another passage, but He would not always be here. We can no longer offer something directly to Him to express our gratitude and devotion.
The phrase “as unto the Lord” pops to mind. It refers to three different situations, but I know most women resist the first one. How can it be an expression of devotion to Christ?
Ephesians 5 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
The human mind associates submission with words like “unequal” and “doormat” but that is not at all what the Bible means. Instead, try: Freedom from the tyranny of always needing to have my own way.
Mary could have selfishly kept her oil and spent it on herself, but she offered it freely to the one she loved. Rejecting my selfish desires to support my husband is an expression of love for him and for Jesus, but it is more than that; it forms a visual picture of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. When I insist on my own way, I’m messing up that image, never mind what other damage my selfishness might do.
On the other hand, “as unto the Lord” gives me the opportunity to show Jesus how much I love Him. God wants me to be like Mary, willing to give up what is valuable to me (my own way), regardless that others might misinterpret and criticize what I’m doing.
The second situation suing this expression concerns the relationship between workers and their boss. In those days, slaves pretty much took the place of employees. The boss took care of all their needs and they performed their duties. The Bible says, “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
It’s the same idea. Serve your master as if you are serving Jesus. One advantage is with this attitude, no one would ever resent their jobs if they do it for the One who died for them. But not only that, my wages from any boss can’t even be compared with the rewards that I will receive from Him.
There is one more area of life where I can do things “as unto the Lord.” It is very practical—I encounter it every time I see a speed limit sign! 1 Peter 2 says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
God puts governments in place; that’s clear from the Old Testament, but the NT reinforces the idea. Romans 13 says “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resist the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Simply put, whenever I obey the laws of my country, I can consider this an act of devotion to Jesus.
I’ve been a Christian many years and am still trying to wrap my mind around this way of thinking. Whenever I need to give up my ‘rights’ or yield to the wishes of my husband, or do what someone in authority over me asks, I usually do it to keep peace, or out of a sense of obligation. Learning to respond to my partner, or to an authority figure “as unto the Lord” is difficult, foreign to my thinking.
In Matthew, Jesus said, “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mary’s example is vital, timeless, and transcends cultures. She reminds me that no matter what I am doing, I can show Jesus how much I love Him just by changing my motivation for doing it, and her simple, selfless act of devotion can be repeated by Christian people regardless of who they are, or when and where they live.