The word “waste” is both a noun and a verb. The noun form of “waste” can mean “trash,” which deepens the verb “to waste” beyond simply failing to appropriately channel the potential of a person, thing, or idea by adding the connotation of actually “throwing” this away.
One who is familiar with the Gospels may recall a familiar passage of a woman who was criticized for being wasteful.
And while he (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
A heart convicted by the love of Christ, the woman did what she could (v8), and Jesus called her act beautiful (v6). The woman took her life savings and poured it out before Jesus; she threw it away before the one who is the essence and definition of value and fragrance.
It is a powerful demonstration of entrusting her future to God.
It is a woman focused on Christ, not the dos and don’ts.
It comes from a woman who understood the purpose of her alabaster jar.
As I read this passage this evening, the words were seemed to transform before my eyes:
There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was this life wasted like that? 5 For this life, opportunity, talent, etc. could have been used for … for the betterment of society.” And they scolded her (v4, modifications mine).
What is in your alabaster jar? Is it oil? Or is it something else?
Talents, gifts, opportunities that God has given you —
There is something poignant about this passage; those who scolded her were also followers of Jesus. Followers of Jesus who did not (yet) recognize his central mission and were instead focused on the periphery. Followers of Jesus who did not understand the woman’s act.
When we come before Christ with our precious alabaster jar, filled with the good things that God has blessed us with, we cannot bring our own expectations and plans. We can neither pour conditionally nor offer on our own terms. We cannot blindly rely on the praise and approval of everyone around us to validate our decisions. Our hearts must recognize that it is a life that is “wasted” for Christ that is beautiful… and as we take up this call, the resulting fragrance will permeate our world.