She Has Done What She Could

If you can imagine for a minute; Jesus is in the home of Simon the Leper with his disciples and a woman walks in and anoints Jesus body with expensive perfume that would have cost the average laborer in the first century 300 days wages. What? Yes. Read Matthew chapter 14. You will read, even though the lady showed deep devotion and generosity toward Jesus, some of the disciples complained. But, the important thing is, Jesus affirmed her.  MK 14:8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” WOW.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me take a look in the mirror and ask, Lord, have I done what I could for you? Although we don’t expect someone who isn’t a born again believer to do what they can for Jesus, one would think born again believers would give Jesus their best. Right? That’s a reasonable conclusion isn’t it?
I realize there seems to be an enormous demand for our time, talents and resources. You have to admit, we generally have been sucked into a busy and fast-paced culture. The question is, are we properly managing these demands and assigning them their proper importance and priority? After all, believe it or not, you do have choices. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how our priorities play out in our culture. To begin with, according to several sources, the average American watches television approximately 5 hours per day. Associated with that, according to a 2014 report by Nielsen, “players aged 13 and over spend more than six hours a week on any given gaming platform. That’s a 12 percent increase from the 5.6 hours they spent with gaming platforms in 2012.” According to a recent survey by RetailMeNot (the largest online coupon site in the U.S.), “parents of children in grades 6-12 spend an average of $671 per year on sports related costs, with 21% of parents spending more than $1,000 per child.” And just so we get a clear picture of household expenditures related to entertainment and the like, according to the United States Bureau of Labor, “the average annual entertainment expenses exceed 5% of total household expenditures compared to 3% for contributions.”
Okay then. What about the church? In other words, what do the priorities look like in the Christian community? Based on Barna’s most recent data, “almost four in 10 (38%) Americans are churchgoers; however, the typical Christian attends church twice per month.” According to research Ed Stetzer published in 2012, “less than 20% of churchgoers read the Bible daily.” According to Steve Diggs (A Christian financial management consultant), “the average Christian today is giving less than 3% back to the Lord — with many giving nothing at all.”  According to researchers Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, “most churches – mega-sized and small, black and white – are actually run by 20 percent of the congregation. The other 80 percent, they say, tend to act like spectators: they are minimally involved and attend infrequently or not at all.”  According to Thom Rainer, “56 percent of Southern Baptist churches are declining and 9 percent of churches are plateaued.”  And, by the way, if you think that’s bad, 80% of the total aggregate of churches in America are in decline. Moreover, the United States Census Bureau Records give some startling statistics, backed up by denominational reports and the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions: “Every year more than 4,000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1,000 new church starts!” I think we can reasonably conclude that, as a whole, we are not doing what we can for Jesus.
In actual fact, these statistics, along with others, paint a dismal picture for the church in America and our society as a whole. They reflect an overall imbalance that is heavily skewed toward a self-serving independence and obsession for fun and entertainment. You might say, our priorities are out of balance. The impact on the local church is devastating. Why? The imbalance effects our commit and devotion to God, as well as the church, leaving the church with a scarcity of volunteers and necessary resources.  In fact, many local churches aren’t able to give to world-wide missions and do little more than hold Sunday morning worship meetings. Furthermore, it means even ministries for children are minimal or non-existent in many churches. You know what they say. “No children. No church.” Even then, many other churches are having to curtail their children’s related ministries. Why? So we can sleep in? So we can watch more television? So we can make more time to play video games? So we can participate in one more sport or other activity? In case you’re not familiar, the mission of the church is “make disciples” (ref. Matthew 28:18-20). For starters, that takes a whole lot more time, resources and dedication than an hour or two on Sunday morning. For that matter, if the ministry of the church isn’t impacting the community and the world (ref. Acts 1:8), the so-called church isn’t the church because it has lost its purpose for existing.
With all of that said, there is hope. Yes. There is good news. There are Christians who are thriving in their relationship with God and their ministry in the church. There are also churches reaching, growing and impacting their communities, and beyond, for Christ. In fact, Heartland is one of them. But, with that said, we can do better in some areas. We too are feeling the impact of a lack of volunteers and resources. So, instead of being a statistic due to imbalance or the lack of commitment, you can become a person like the lady who anointed Jesus’ body with expensive perfume. That’s right. You can “do what you can do.”  It is a choice. You will have to choose balance, discipline, commitment and most of all—a deep love for Jesus and others. The lady who anointed Jesus’ body apparently knew he was going to die. And now, we know that he did die. Why? The Apostle Peter writes, 1 PE 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit . . .”  As well, the Apostle Paul also says, 2 COR 5:21 “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” After all, Jesus died that we may have life. It goes without saying, Jesus is worthy of our praise, worship, devotion and service. He is even worth our life. Oh my dear friends, working for the cause of Christ is our privilege. It is our purpose. It is our priority. May it be said of you, you have done what you could.
A Work in Progress,
Pastor Gene

Gene StocktonComment