Was It All A Waste?

It broke my heart and stole my resolve. 

As a writer, rejects come. It’s kind of part of the whole deal, it happens and though difficult, it usually helps me grow. But this email rejection bit like dog’s teeth into the fabric of my being. It wouldn’t let me go. 

I’d labored hours upon hours, writing, re-writing and starting over again. I’d sacrificed time with family and friends. I’d spent money and taken advice. I’d neglected things that needed to be done and pushed myself out of every comfort zone that I’d hugged tight. I opened my soul to the deep breaking waves of thought to word. 

But then, it amounted to nothing.  

Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar. Maybe you know the crush of rejection, the feel of wasted effort and time. Possibly, you know the sting of unappreciated labor.  

Simon, a friend of Jesus, hosted a group of people at his home in Bethany. We aren’t told his whole story, but one distinguished as Simon the Leper, likely had known the healing hand of Jesus.

The cross loomed ahead just days after the meal at Simon’s house.  

Jesus’ whole life had been one of sacrifice, giving to others, working tirelessly. But, His greatest sacrifice lay ahead, grueling and undeserved. He anticipated it with every thing that He did. 

A woman came to the table where the group gathered, and broke open a jar of expensive perfume called nard. She poured it over Jesus’ head. (Mark 14 and Matthew 26)

“It’s a waste!” they cried. 

“The expense!”

“It could have bought meals and clothing for the poor!”

“She could have used her time to do things profitable for others!” 

“What a waste.” 

They were appalled, offended by the perceived misuse of something so valuable. 

This reaction came from Jesus’ disciples, experts of ministry, learners from the Master Himself. They walked and talked with Him, were close to the ever billowing needs which begged His help. They saw the lame healed, the mute speak, and the dead live again. They worked hard. They gave up home and family, comfort and jobs. Poor and needy, young and old, those vulnerable and grieving occupied days and consumed their nights. 

Yet, when a troubled woman, in devotion to Her Savior, broke a bottle of expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus, they recognized it as a waste. They saw someone who broke the norm and shook the status quo. She messed with how things should be done.   

I wonder if the criticism upset her. Did she feel humiliated? Misunderstood? Mocked? Did a sudden uncertainty plague her? In the perfume filled air did she feel the disciple’s disapproval, as if the wounds of her soul had been declared insignificant and irrelevant?  

“Why this waste?” the disciples asked. “For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’” (Matthew 26:8-9 ESV)

Why had she gone public with something so deeply private? The call of her heart and the professionalism of her action didn’t mesh according to those with authority. 

In fact, Simon’s guests were outraged. Think of the bottom line, the expense, the interruption to a perfectly good meal. 

But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.’” (Matthew 26:10 ESV)

She has done a beautiful thing.

How tender are those words. How affirming of her devotion “to Him.”“She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Matthew 26:10 ESV) Click To Tweet

You may have given much in a relationship but received heartache in return. 

You may have worked hard and long on a job and you wonder, for what? You might feel the pain of investing heart and soul into an endeavor only to have it regarded as a waste of resources, unnoticed and unrewarded. Perhaps a bit like a writing project rejected. 

Jesus gave everything for us. 


I don’t really know what motivated the woman in Matthew to anoint Jesus with such costly oil. I don’t quite get it either. Maybe she wasn’t even sure why she did it, but I do know it came from some ardent spring inside her, something that outflowed from the depths of her soul. It wasn’t for others. It was “to Him.” Jesus gave everything for us. Everything. Click To Tweet

Nothing done for Him is wasted. Rather, it is like an offering of pure nard.  

Hair dripping with the powerful scent of her perfumed oil, He understood. Jesus knew what perhaps even the woman could not comprehend. She anointed Him for death and burial, a beautiful thing. 

Perhaps you feel a kinship with the woman, as if you’ve wasted something precious, but received little for your sacrifice. Be encouraged. Jesus sees things differently.

Not wasted, but a beautiful thing.

Jesus sees things differently. Not wasted, but a beautiful thing. Click To Tweet


* Feature Photo by Chris Mai on Unsplash

25 Replies

  1. Justin Reply

    Great article, and such a great reminder of why we do what we do — even if the results aren’t what we want. ❤️

  2. Barbara Latta Reply

    This is a beautiful, encouraging post, Sylvia. This story has always been among my favorites in the Bibke. Thanks for giving us more insight into this woman’s offering

  3. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Your message touched me deeply this morning, Sylvia. First of all, I felt your pain–rejection is heart breaking when we spill ourselves–heart, body, and soul into our writing, only to receive those rejection letters and emails. But we pick ourselves up and keep going. Jesus was rejected many times, too, but He kept going. The second part of your message is one of courage (the woman was ridiculed for her actions, but kept going); love (She gave in love and Jesus responded in love); and hope (Jesus loves us that way, too–He encourages us on our journey to serve Him). Thank you, Sylvia.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Katherine. I always appreciate your wisdom and encouragement. I especially loved the reminder that Jesus faced rejection too. This is something I need to remember. I’m glad you pointed me to Him.

  4. Don Pahl Reply

    Jesus then told Simon a penetrating story/parable. I’ve always been intrigued by the choreography. “Turning to(ward) the woman, Jesus said to Simon!” “She did; you did not … she did; you did not!”
    After the woman’s crushing rejection, Jesus accepted her offering and rejected Simon’s non-offering.
    You’ve bought new meaning (rejection vs. acceptance) to a favorite passage, Sylvia! Thank you!

  5. Sylvia Schroeder Reply

    Thank you, Don! What intriguing detail you’ve highlighted. I’ve never really noticed that before. Thanks so much for pointing that out. I love how Scripture never gets old or mundane. There is always something new to learn!

  6. Cleo Waters Reply

    Slyvia… you do (and always have had) a beautiful way with words. Thank you for this special observation of ‘waste’.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you so much Cleo. You are always an encouragement! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  7. J.D. Wininger Reply

    I’m reminded that if the only person who reads what God has placed on my heart, then I have to believe it has reached its intended target. Would I love to see my name gracing the cover of a bestseller? Wouldn’t every writer? Of course, your name on the book isn’t nearly as important as God’s message to its readers inside the book. I pray yours finds a larger audience than you could ever expect my friend.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you J.D. for those kind words. I know you get the process and its a great reminder that God is faithful in the one person too.

  8. Jeanie Williams Reply

    Thank you for this encouraging post. I just had a thought, not really knowing how many days this was before the Cross: maybe Jesus carried that fragrance in his hair to the cross. . .

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Jeanie, what a precious thought that He may have carried that fragrance to the cross. Thank you so much for sharing it! I love that.

  9. Pia Reply

    I could have written the first part of this article – the rejection. Thank you for getting me to the second part – the beautiful thing.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Pia. I’m so glad you found that helpful. May God bless your words for His glory.

  10. Laura Mc Reply

    At the end of a day, when all I’ve accomplished is house cleaning, a short walk, an hour of babysitting and then dinner preparation, I often do feel as if my time was wasted. I’d rather focus on something creative or academic, not mundane or routine. I need to remember that if my precious time is devoted to Him, it is never wasted.

    No effort is rejected… even if a publisher declines it or our own misguided opinions demean it.

    Sylvia – our gifts are a sweet aroma to Him.

  11. Ron Gallagher Reply

    I love your call to see this unnamed woman make such a sacrificial demonstration of her love, gratitude, and devotion to Jesus. It’s hard not to wonder how many of us who profess to love and serve Him would have had the courage to do anything like she did in the face of public condemnation and humiliation. It’s easy to make our public displays of worship to Him when the crowd around us responds with approval and maybe even joins in along with us. But we might not be so prone to do it if everyone around us considered our actions to be an offensive waste and declared that our time, energy, and resources could be put to better use.

    Great reminder, Sylvia–and as one who has felt what a rejection of my best efforts feels like, I appreciate how you brought this great passage into focus.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Ron. I appreciate the attention you brought to the woman’s courage. As you pointed out its so much easier to please a crowd than be criticized or mocked by one. When devotion to Jesus is deep, we are willing to think more highly of Him than ourselves. Revealing isn’t it, the measure of how much what others think matters to us.

  12. Nancy E. Head Reply

    Nothing goes to waste in God’s Kingdom. His economy is perfect, letting no experience of ours go to waste and nothing we do for Him be for naught. God bless, Sylvia.

  13. Anonymous Reply

    A cousin and wife had adopted a sibling group. When the youngest, in whom they had invested so much time and energy and love to help deal with his mental health challenges, had almost completed high school, he committed suicide. We went to visit them, and the wife said a startling thing. “Love is never wasted.” As I mulled over that statement, I thought of something similar to what you said, that love is never wasted, even when it ultimately cannot stem the tide of the child’s trauma and self-hatred, because it is given first of all to the One who loved us an gave himself for us. It is an offering poured out to Him. It is still hard to fathom how she lived through that grief and loss, and could still say, “Love is never wasted.” But I believe it is true.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you for sharing this story. What a powerful thing for your cousin to say and realize. As you point out, when our time and effort go first to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, it is an offering even in such deep grief and loss. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Sylvia Schroeder Reply

    Thank you for sharing the link Jana Carlson on Worthy Words!