“What a waste of talent.”
I sank in my chair. I tried thinking of a compelling response as my professor continued to express his disappointment when he learned I would be going into the ministry rather than pursuing a career in social psychology. He could not fathom why I would ever waste my talent and “throw it all away in some church.”
Yet, what my professor did not understand was that the true waste would have been to spend my life in pursuit of anything other than obedience to Jesus.
During the final week of his life on earth, Jesus was enjoying dinner with friends. A woman came with a flask of very expensive ointment. She broke the flask and poured its contents over Jesus’ head. The fragrance of her worship filled the home. There were some who became indignant over this extravagant act. They wanted to know, “Why this waste?” The disciples watched as a flask of ointment, worth approximately an entire year’s salary for a working man, was poured out and gone in an instant. They saw a lost opportunity. They saw a loss of incredible financial resources. They saw waste. But Jesus saw an act of worship.
Jesus responded to their indignation, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6; cf. Matt 26:10). Jesus affirmed that this was the best use of her wealth. She knew the infinite worth of Christ and she demonstrated that no earthly treasure could compare to the riches of the glory of her Savior. She lavishly worshiped and Jesus affirmed her sacrifice.
Christ-follower, it is imperative that we have the right perspective of waste. Our world would say that going into the ministry, consenting to long hours, emotional exhaustion, and smaller paychecks is a waste of time and a forfeiture of potential wealth. After all, there are things to achieve and money to make. The unbelieving world would say that staying at home with your children is a waste. A waste of time, talent, and a hard-earned college degree. Our culture would have us believe that time spent in pursuit of Christ is a waste of precious hours that we could use to pursue more beneficial things like work, a fit physique, a Pinterest-worthy home, or picture-perfect outings to post on Instagram.
Yet, for Christians with eyes to see and ears to hear, we know that to live our lives focused on gaining any number of things while giving lip service to God on Sunday mornings is a true waste. Spending our time, talent, and treasure for selfish gain and worldly pleasure is an ultimate waste. It is a tragedy of eternal proportion to spend a life in pursuit of the American dream or the accolades of social media while neglecting the One who alone can save your soul from sin and death and satisfy the deepest longings of your heart. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
There are thousands of sacrifices we will likely need to make in the pursuit of Christ: comfort, status, acceptance, monetary gain, accolades, ease of life, relationships, possessions, security…and the list could go on. However, by the grace of God through the power of the Spirit, we know that when we follow the call of Christ, our earthly sacrifices are not a waste. No, they are a beautiful act of worship.
When we see the magnificence of Jesus, we know that we waste nothing when we give certain things up and pursue service to him. We spend and are spent for Christ and are confident blessings will return ten-fold, either in this life or the next. Jesus himself promised, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30). Indeed, sacrifices are painful and costly. But our sacrifices are sources of blessing and offer a greater reward. In fact, sacrifices become the means of greater intimacy with Christ and conformity to him. Our eyes are opened to the beauty of Christ in a more profound way as we suffer with him. Our hearts are changed in such a fashion that the sacrifice, though often still painful and hard, in a sense no longer seems like a sacrifice at all—it is gladly given in exchange for abiding with the One who saved us from sin and death.
Nothing is ever a waste that is given in our worship of Jesus.
No amount of time, talent, or treasure is ever squandered when it is surrendered to Christ; it is worship (Romans 12:1). As followers of Christ, all that we are and all that we possess, are consecrated to him. We are to give lavishly to him, despite the perceived cost. What the world, or even other believers, may see as waste is deemed by Christ Jesus as a beautiful thing.