The idea of “Are you doing enough?” taunts me daily, and I know I’m not alone.
There are days when the thoughts of “enough” rattle around my mind from the moment I wake up until after my head hits the pillow:
Am I doing enough at work?
Do my husband and kids get enough of me?
Is the house clean enough?
Am I skinny enough?
Am I spiritual enough?
These unbiblical obsessions have held me hostage for too long. I’ve had enough of… enough. In a world that preaches “ought” and “should” in order to measure up, I’ve discovered the refreshing truth from serving a Savior who praises “can.”
A pastor friend of mine reminded me of the story in Mark 14 where a woman goes to Jesus and breaks open an alabaster jar of perfume to anoint Him. Two distinct reactions fill the room: Jesus’ esteem for her loving act of worship, and the disciples’ sneers as they turn up their noses and despise what she’s done.
Their reactions are the difference between the freedom of “can” and the shame of “should”:
While He was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
While the disciples wring their hands and lament about what ought or should have been done, Jesus focuses on what the woman can do. A simple act of worship need not be muddied with dozens of other possibilities. Feed the poor? Cash it in for a year’s wages? Leave the perfume in its container where it belongs? Avoid the banquet all together and do something privately? Surely, other options remained on the table rather than this embarrassing and extravagant public display. However, Christ seems much more concerned with this woman’s heart.
Christ is also concerned with your heart. Every guilt trip contains massive baggage, and that’s not the abundant life Christ came to give us. What can you do?
Focus on “can.”
The Body of Christ works like the human body. We all work together to bring about function. I can have 20/20 vision, but that doesn’t negate what my kidneys do. Having a healthy heart doesn’t mean I can put unhealthy food into my stomach. In the same fashion, our gifts and talents work together for the good of God’s Kingdom. Romans 12:5-8 reminds us: so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
You do not have to preach like someone else, or serve like someone else, or teach like the person you admire. Your calling is do use your gifts with the time, energy, and abilities God has given you. Playing the comparison game has no place in Christian living.
What’s in your jar now?
The only offerings you must give are what’s in your jar. It can contain current responsibilities, talents, or energy levels. When I was pregnant with our youngest, I watched in awe as my son’s pregnant kindergarten teacher wrangled those 26 students with aplomb. I told my friend, “There’s no way I could do what she does!” She wisely replied, “You don’t have to do what she does. Do what you do.” At that time, it meant raising our five-year-old son and teaching college writing classes. The contents of my alabaster jar don’t have to look like yours. They don’t have to resemble saving the world or managing nonprofits to feed the hungry or a so-called “worthy” cause. All we’re required to break open is what God has given us to glorify Him.
What will God add to your jar?
2 Corinthians 9:7 says: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. The cheerful giving also applies to money as well as time and attitude. As we grow in our walk with Him, He will add talents, opportunities, compassion, and energy to our jar. Are we focused on keeping them well-preserved in our jar, or are we willing to break them open and spill them out on others? God will not guilt us into what we should do; the Holy Spirit will always gently remind us about what we can do.
Ignore the scoffers.
Gentle rebuke is necessary for Christians to grow, repent, forgive, and extend the same courtesy to others. However, in this passage, the disciples opt for shame over praise. It is possible others may roll their eyes at what you can give and gossip about what you should be doing. Let their eyes roll all they want. God will deal with their hearts as He will ours.
Ask the Lord for guidance.
The joy of can is not a license to be lazy or stingy. We are often called to stretch ourselves so God can work in us. It’s a fine line, but God will always help us discern between earthly baggage and Heavenly service. Ask Him to guide your heart today.
If you’re living in a world of “should” and “ought,” I implore you to search the Scriptures and ask God to give you a spirit of “can.” If we empty and pour out what He’s given us, He promises blessings and comfort. And that’s way better than the bondage of “enough.”
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