Perfume: Is Valentine’s Day Frivolous?

Valentine ’s Day. Stores make millions on flowers and chocolates. Men and women desperately hope for a gift from their significant other. Restaurants are overbooked, because everyone is taking their sweetheart out.

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So what do we do with a day like this? Christ followers can struggle with it and call it a “Hallmark holiday”. Others take time to study the real story of St. Valentine. While some, defy Dave Ramsey’s teachings and spend lots of money on their lover. What’s the correct way?

How can we spend so much money every year on the commercialized holiday, when millions of people are starving to death? How can we break our budget for some flowers, which will probably die tomorrow? Is it a waste of our God given resources?

The Bible shares a story of when Jesus is given a “frivolous” gift. His response may give you some perspective on the ancient holiday.

Matthew 26:6-13

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Wow. Can you imagine the scene? A woman comes into a stranger’s house, finds Jesus, and then pours expensive perfume on his head. Talk about a gift that won’t last very long! In Bible times, the men and women wore sandals as they walked through the sand, mud, and manure. The smell of the perfume probably lasted as long a spray of air freshener! The disciples were quick to notice the frivolousness of the gift. They have been traveling with Jesus, and watching his ministry. They know this guy doesn’t wear Old Spice. He instructed them to leave their travel supplies at home, and told them to trust God to meet there needs. They heard Jesus tell the rich man to sell all his goods and give his money to the poor. Considering their experience, I can understand why they would be quick to ask “Why this waste?”

Jesus’s answer is gracious.

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me…”

This woman recognizes that Jesus’s life on earth is temporary. He is fully man, he is confined by time, and his time is coming. She doesn’t want to miss her chance to honor and love him. Likewise, we are human and our time is limited. Expressing love to our spouse, while they are here is not a frivolous gesture. The example for marriage is Jesus’s relationship with the Church. He sacrifices everything for us, yet he still graciously receives this perfume. He still is grateful for her.

Jesus tells them that they always have an opportunity to give to the poor, but the opportunities to bless him are near an end. We are given opportunities to bless our Lord too, but we easily find excuses to avoid them! Yet here we are on Valentine’s Day saying, “Why would I waste my money on flowers for you, when some people don’t even have food?” We would never give up our cable package, smart phone, or daily soda, but we can play the part of a “spiritual” person, if it gets us out of being generous. Aren’t we a piece of work!

Jesus goes on to say:

12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

The true significance of this story is that she knew what many of Jesus’s followers failed to see. She knew that he was the Messiah and that he would die a terrible death for his people. She knew who he was, and her gift was symbolic of her understanding and thankfulness. She made a statement to the world, that this man was significant.

We have an opportunity on Valentine’s Day to express that we know who our spouse is. We should declare that they are significant! Not all of us can buy expensive perfume (and not all of us should), but we all can let someone know that they are significant. We can receive a frivolous gift with grace, because this gift is not “a waste”. It is the gift that caused Jesus to say:

She has done a beautiful thing to me.

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