History knows England’s King James I as “the wisest fool in Christendom.” He was personally intelligent but politically inept.

In a different sense, every Christian is a wise fool. That’s because the wisest thing in the world is being a “fool for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10).

The Mary who was sibling to Lazarus and Martha models this wise foolishness. We see in her that the wisest thing in the world is the foolishness of serving Jesus.

Her story is found in Mark 14:3-9:

“While (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment . . . broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? . . . (it) could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for my burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

I find in these words three reasons why serving Jesus seems foolish and three reasons why serving him is wise.

Foolish Thinking

1. Serving Jesus seems foolish because it’s serving someone most people wouldn’t dream of serving. When Jesus was on earth “he was despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:2-3). He still is. The vast majority of people see Jesus as no more relevant to their lives than a rotary telephone. They see no compelling reason to imitate Mary and “perform good service” for him. Yet we join her and a minority of the world’s population across the past centuries and present globe in pouring out the precious ointment of our lives for this man many pay no attention to. This seems foolish to most people.

2. Serving Jesus seems foolish because it involves spending a lot of money on someone other than self, family and friends and the things most people think make up “the good life.” Heavyweight boxer Joe Louis said, “I like money . . . it calms my nerves.” Most people add that another reason they like money is because it’s the fast track to the good life of a Lexus instead of a VW, a Rolex instead of a Timex, and the latest Apple gadget. And that’s how they spend most of it on themselves and their loved ones. Not Mary. She spent her expensive ointment on Jesus, not herself. She’s like a Christian couple I know. Years ago they began pouring ointment on Jesus’ head by giving to poor Christians the money they usually spend on Christmas presents for each other. They aren’t alone. Many Christians spend more money on Jesus than on themselves. This seems foolish to most people.

3. Serving Jesus seems foolish because it exposes you to the charge of being the one thing our culture most despises: a bigot. Mary was treated as badly as a politically incorrect politician for serving Jesus. She’s scalded with criticism and scolding. That’s no surprise. Serving Jesus is so against the cultural grain that it makes you a blister-causing rock in the cultural shoe. Take a single example. Sex. Serve Jesus by affirming a Tim Tebow like commitment to sexual purity. . . or by affirming Jesus’ words that marriage is the only God-authorized venue for sexual expression . . . or, if you’re so serious about serving Jesus you’re willing to go where angels fear to tread—serve the Savior by affirming his insistence that sexual relationships are not only confined to marriage but that marriage is confined to a union between a man and a woman . . . well, do that and get ready. You’ll be vilified as intolerant and homophobic. This seems foolish to most people.

Can God use ordinary people to do great things for him? Check out our free Bible Study on usefulness: No Little People

Wise Living

But “God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). What people call living foolishly, God calls living wisely.

1. Being a fool by serving Jesus is living wisely because Jesus is the most important Person Who ever lived. Jesus says that Mary’s ointment was mortuary preparation for his burial. Housed in that statement, like gold in Fort Knox, is the priceless truth about Who he is. Jesus is the One the Father sent to live the life we could not live and die the death we cannot die. Our eternal destiny depends on our relationship to him: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The day will come when the only thing that will matter is whether we savored and served Jesus. This makes serving Jesus living wisely.

2. Being a fool by serving Jesus is living wisely because he prizes and rewards us for serving him. Like a Secret Service agent stepping in front of the President when a shot is fired, Jesus steps in front of Mary and protects her from her critics. Then he gives her the standing ovation of praise for what she’s done and a cameo role in his word. Like a TV actor getting residuals for reruns, Mary will continue being applauded whenever people read Mark’s gospel. This is the Lord’s way of assuring us that anything we do for him is an investment in the only Bull Market there is. This makes serving Jesus living wisely.

3. Being a fool by serving Jesus is living wisely because living any other way is folly. Jesus includes Mary and her action in the Bible as a role model for us. The Lord holds her up and says, “This is the way you should live.” Like her, we have a very costly ointment. Our life. Every single day we’re pouring it out. If we pour it out in any way other than in service to Jesus we waste it. The old words are right: “Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” This makes serving Jesus living wisely.

Jesus says of Mary, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8).

Are we doing what we can for him?

Are we pouring out the ointment of our positions, gifts, relationships, and money by using all of them for him?

Are we wise fools?

Are you living wisely by serving Jesus? Download our free Bible Study on being useful: No Little People


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