Let us consider Mary first. Her pouring of ointment on the Lord’s head and body was for His burial. Mary thought: "I have seen my brother being raised from the dead, and He has stayed in our house many times. He comes frequently to Bethany. He is indeed my precious Savior. He has told His disciples four times that He will die (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:1-2), but the disciples did not understand what He meant. But I know that His death is for me. After He dies, men will surely anoint Him with ointments, frankincense, and myrrh. But I do not want to wait until He dies. I will anoint Him with the ointment, the frankincense, and the myrrh before He dies. I will pour out everything on Him. What is the use of pouring out all these things on Him after He has died? It is better to pour them on Him while He is living!" An alabaster flask of ointment worth three hundred denarii was very expensive. Even now we cannot find ointment more expensive than this. Therefore, at that time, this must have been the most expensive ointment.
When did she do this? She did it while the Lord was reclining at the table. In other words, she did it secretly while the Lord was rejoicing and taking no notice of her. She did not tell the Lord ahead of time and did not let Him know what she was doing. She did it secretly to the Lord while nobody was watching. What does this mean? Many people want salvation, but they do not want the Savior. They treasure salvation, but do not treasure the Savior. Many people treasure Christianity, but they do not treasure Christ. Many treasure the work of redemption, but do not treasure the Redeemer. Many people love the cross of Christ, but do not love the Christ of the cross. The first thing many people ask is what profit they will receive if they believe in the Lord. They do not ask what kind of love they will have for the Lord if they believe in Him. But Mary knew, and this is where the difference lies. She knew that the Lord died for us and resurrected for us, and that we should offer Him our love and everything. Although she did not come from a wealthy family, she exchanged everything she had for the ointment of pure nard, and poured it on the Lord. Mary poured out all she had on the Lord. Only she understood the Lord’s death. On the first day of the week, several women went to the Lord’s grave to anoint His body with ointment and myrrh. But they were too late! Only this woman made it; all the other women missed it. Only she understood the Lord’s death, and only she had the offering and sacrifice.
The disciples thought that Mary’s act was a waste and a throwaway. They thought that it was better to give the three hundred denarii to the poor. The same two principles exist in the church today. There is one group of people who, like Mary, give everything to Christ. They consider Christ to be worthy of everything, and their love for Christ prompts them to give everything to Him. Another group of people are more pragmatic. On the one hand, there are Marys, who are governed by their hearts. On the other hand, there are other ones, who are governed by their reason. On the one side, we have the ones who follow their hearts. On the other side, we have the ones who follow ways and methods. Objectively speaking, what Mary did was a waste and a throwaway. But we have to realize that not many believers are attracted by love. Not many consider love as their life, destiny, and everything. For those who love Him, three hundred denarii are nothing. Even three thousand or three million denarii are nothing. The question is not how much something itself is worth, but how much the person to whom it is directed is worth. The issue is not the thing, but the person. Man treasures only the things he loves. The worth of the thing he offers to the Lord speaks of the worth of the Lord to him. When many people offer money to the Lord, they carefully calculate over and over again. Actually, they are not calculating the amount they should offer; they are calculating the worth of the Lord. The amount you offer to the Lord speaks of the amount that He is worth to you. If you cannot give Him very much, it means that He is not worth very much to you. One alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard tells us of the worth of the Lord. This flask of ointment does not speak of Mary’s consecration, but of God’s worth and Christ’s worth. A person’s sacrifice to the Lord tells us not of his generosity, but of Christ’s worth. A martyr is able to sacrifice his body because the Lord is worth more than his life, not because he is able to renounce everything. Every suffering and consecrated believer tells us the worth of Christ, and every person who is willing to offer up his time to the Lord tells us how much the Lord is to him. The only reason a Christian is willing to sacrifice everything is that Christ is worth everything.
Let me illustrate this further by considering the price of a piece of merchandise. The amount you are willing to pay for a piece of merchandise is the worth of that piece of merchandise to you. The price always matches the worth. The price one pays is the worth of the goods that one receives. If a watch is worth five dollars, you will not want to spend six dollars on it; you will pay only five dollars and no more. Therefore, the fact that you have spent five dollars on the watch means that the watch is worth five dollars. The five dollars you put out equals the five dollars the watch is worth. The price always matches the worth. The price of an article determines its worth. The price you are willing to pay for the Lord determines the Lord’s worth to you.
The disciples thought that the three hundred denarii could be given to the poor; that amount could have helped many poor ones survive for a few months. To do that would be the pragmatic and practical approach. There are these two groups of people in the church today. One group sees the love of the Lord and considers it worthwhile to offer everything to the Lord and give Him everything. They are not concerned about right or wrong, gain or loss, success or failure; they care only for the Lord’s pleasure. They are willing to make the most uneconomical move. Another group considers it more appropriate to put everything in the most profitable area. They invest in areas that are profitable and generate results. "If you do this, you will save more souls, and if you do that, you can help more people. If you do such and such, your work will expand." Friends, this kind of pragmatism is actually the principle of Judas!
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 21: The Christian (1934-1940), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)