Contact Info Subscribe Links


October-November 2014

What's Next for Home Missions?


Online Edition

Download PDF

iPad and eReader




History Resources




A Good Work

by Ray Lewis


You may just be starting your walk with the Lord, or you may be nearing the end of the journey, it doesn’t matter. There’s still work to do. Age and physical condition may bring some limitations, but it doesn’t matter what stage of life we’re in, there is something for us to do.

Mark 14 records the story of a woman identified in Matthew and John as Mary. Her story has been told for generations—the story of her startling action that was both accepted and commended by Christ.

Only a few days before Christ went to the cross, Mary took a jar of precious ointment and poured it on His head. Her actions brought instant criticism, but in verse 6, Jesus stepped in quickly: “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me.”

Why did He view this simple act as good? Why did He declare in verse 9, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her”?

The same principles that allowed Jesus to pronounce Mary’s action good can help us determine whether our actions are good in His sight or not.


Jesus commended Mary’s action because it was performed out of love.

Mary did not anoint the head of Christ because it was required, because she felt it was her duty to do something nice for Him, or because she felt sorry for Him.

Mary understood the announcements about His coming death and resurrection and used the ointment to prepare His body for burial. She knew the cross was at hand, and she wanted to show her love to Jesus while she could. She knew that very soon she would not be able to do anything else for Him.

Her actions became a lasting memorial to her because she served with the right motive—a heart filled with love. Jesus saw her action and pronounced it good.

What we do for Christ is good also, when done out of love. The Lord understands why we do the things we do, and He judges the motivation behind why we do them. We should not serve Him out of duty but out of love.


Jesus commended Mary’s action because sacrifice was involved.

Mary did not give out of her abundance but sacrificially. The ointment was precious and expensive. It was valued at approximately three hundred denarii, enough to pay a laborer to work for a full year.

Mary broke open the box of precious ointment and poured it on the head of Jesus. It is significant that the Bible says she broke it. She determined to serve Christ with 100%. She kept back nothing for herself. In breaking it, she had to use it all.

What does it mean for us to sacrifice for Christ? It means we are willing to give up everything that belongs to us for the sake of Christ. It is being willing to sacrifice time, money, or anything else required to make the name of Christ known.

Too many Christians today do not sacrifice. They might give of their excess, but they do not give of their essentials or treasures. Mary gave her best to Jesus. She knew God wanted her best and her all, and that is what she gave. This is what God wants from each of us as well—our very best, our all.

Our actions are good in the eyes of God when we sacrifice to get the job done.


Jesus commended Mary’s action because she did not expect a reward.

Verse 3 says, “She broke the box and poured it on His head.”

Mary did not expect anything in return for what she did. Nowhere did she say, “I will anoint Jesus, and He will bless me or do something for me in return.” No, with great humility she walked over to Christ, anointed his head, and expected nothing in return.

When a jar of liquid is broken, it’s virtually impossible to control the flow. You cannot save what is poured out. It is spent. You cannot get it back. Mary gave all she could give with no thought of getting anything in return. She broke the alabaster box, to give all of it, not keeping any for herself.

Christians are exhorted to give their all to Christ “not for reward” but because it is the right thing to do. God will reward us for doing right but that should never be our motivation. We are to serve God because he is our God, and we love him.

What motivates you to action? Do you ask, “What’s in it for me?” Are you expecting something in return? When you sing a special, give a gift, or help somebody in need, do you expect to be rewarded? Do you expect the recipients to sing your praises and if they don’t, do you draw back and say, “nobody appreciates me for what I do.”

Our actions are good in God’s sight when we do them without expecting to be rewarded. We realize Jesus has done enough by going to the cross for us.


Jesus commended Mary’s deed because she didn’t let criticism stop her.

The disciples rebuked Mary harshly for what they saw as a waste. This did not stop her from doing what was good. Their words did not matter to her. Honoring Christ was her objective.

When we do anything worthwhile for the Lord, the devil is going to attack us. He sometimes uses people within our own church, family, or friends to find fault, criticize, reject us, turn others against us, or cause some other form of dissension within the family of God.

How should we react when we are attacked? Mary set a great example for us. She remained quiet and let Jesus defend her. I like that. Jesus rebuked her critics just as harshly as they criticized her. You see, He knew her heart, and He understood why she was doing this for Him. When our motives are pure and we are right, we should remember that God is still in control. He is our defender.

When we are in the will of God, performing deeds that are good and pleasing, criticism will come. We must remember that it is good in the sight of God for saints to continue in spite of criticism. Don’t let criticism stop you.


Finally, Jesus commends Mary’s action because, according to His own words, “She hath done what she could.”

I can think of no higher tribute. This woman didn’t have much, but she gave everything she had to Jesus. God never asks us to do more than we can, but He does expect us to do all we can. After all, Christ did all He could for us. When God looks at our actions, can He say we have done a good thing for Him? He can…if we act out of love, if we are willing to sacrifice, if we do not expect a reward, if we continue in the face of criticism, and if we have done all we can.


About the Writer: Ray Lewis joined the Board of Retirement in 1982. He became director in 2005 after serving for several years as assistant director.




©2014 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists