Jesus was in Bethany. He was at the table in the home of Simon, who had a skin disease. A woman came with a special sealed jar. It contained very expensive perfume made out of pure nard. She broke the jar open and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Some of the people there became angry. They said to one another, “Why waste this perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s pay. The money could have been given to poor people.” So they found fault with the woman.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. You will always have poor people with you. You can help them any time you want to. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body to prepare me to be buried. What I’m about to tell you is true. What she has done will be told anywhere the good news is preached all over the world. It will be told in memory of her. --Mark 14:3-9 (emphasis mine)
Believe it or not, I’ve had my doubts over whether or not it was the best decision to release three albums in one year. It’s pretty lucrative, time-consuming, and expensive. Maybe that’s why nobody does it. Most artists release one album, tour and write, then release the next album a year or two later.
For the most part, I’ve had confidence in my decision. When you’re sticking close to Jesus, praying continually, and are in the Word daily, that confidence in your ability to hear and discern His voice increases. However, when you’re tired, physically & mentally drained, and anxious about how it’s all going to come together, it’s easy for those doubts to come creeping in.
I wrestled with these feelings when I was in the studio recording the third album of The Love Project this summer. I lay in bed completely zapped of all energy and thought to myself, “Is all of this worth it?”
After all, most people my age are investing all of their time, money, and energy into building new homes, financial portfolios, and growing their families.
And in that moment I thought of that passage of scripture in Mark 14 and wondered, “Is this just wasted perfume?”
When I am being honest with myself and I read that scripture, I tend to side with the angry people. I’m so guilty of judging the way organizations and churches spend their efforts and money. I mean, aren’t we all? We see a church spending a lot of time and money on some sort of outreach project or silly sermon illustration and we become critical and think that time and money could have gone to something else.
The fact of the matter is, God and God alone is the only One able to judge the hearts of those who bring Him sacrifices.
I’ve been reading through Genesis and it always amazes me how critical we can be of Cain’s sacrifice and assert our own suppositions about it. The fact of the matter is, scripture tells us that both Cain and Abel brought the Lord offerings, but it was God who was able to judge their hearts and differentiate between their intentions.[i]
So as I not only prepare to release the third album of The Love Project this fall, but also prepare for upcoming concerts and worship services, I’m meditating a lot on Mark 14.
Worship and music ministry are interesting in that, we as musicians and worship leaders do a lot of what we do for others.
Let me break it down. When you’re planning a service, you try to choose songs that will flow well together. That involves key changes, transitions, and the tone set by each song. Then you factor in the theme of the evening or what the morning message will be. And with every plan you put into place, you’re considering the congregation or audience: when you should have them stand, clap, or sing, or simply just how to inspire them to become engaged and help them worship.
These are all great things to consider and yet, I keep going back to Mark 14.
The woman poured perfume on Jesus as her own personal act of worship. She did it in the presence of scoffers and mockers, but did it anyway because she felt led to do it. She didn’t do it to inspire, set an example, or teach. She did it as a personal sacrifice between her and her Lord. What followed were Jesus’ prophetic Words that her story would impact millions way after her death.
Much like worship leading, songwriters definitely feel that “need to please” when putting together an album. For the most part, at least in my case, songs start out as personal feelings and thoughts, stories, or prayers. Then as it gets closer to the production of an album, you are considering your target audience: what songs are their favorite, do you have enough up-tempo songs to make the phlegmatic and sanguine happy, do you have enough slow, minor songs to appease the melancholy, and, of course, cover songs to make it familiar to everyone.
All these things are great to consider, but God keeps taking me back to Mark 14. No matter our act of worship. No matter the sacrifice we bring. No matter the type of work we are doing; we are to do it first and foremost for the Lord. (See Colossians 3:17) And if that is our motive, it is quite possible that perfume will pour out and overflow into the lives of those all around us and they will be impacted by “the beautiful thing we have done.”
So, this is my own personal challenge as I continue to write and release music and lead worship and engage in other creative projects: I want my sole aim to be pleasing my King. And perhaps in doing so “what I have done “will be told anywhere the good news is preached all over the world in memory of me,” and others will be inspired to do the same as well.
So go ahead. Dump out every last drop of your most expensive perfume onto Jesus. After all, nothing is wasted in the Kingdom of God.
[i] Genesis 4:2-7