One of the most beautiful incidents in the life of Jesus took place just days before his death. The deed in question was a very simple act, the pouring of expensive ointment upon his body, but Jesus said that Mary and her action would always be remembered wherever the Gospel would be preached (Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9). Right there and then, however, Jesus gave an assessment of her act of devotion – “She has done what she could.” (Mark 14:8) – and over the next few months I would like to consider some lessons we can learn from this simple statement.

First of all, Mary did what she could with what she had. From a financial viewpoint, she gave a lot to Jesus that evening. She anointed his body with an expensive perfume extracted from an exotic plant grown on the slopes of the Himalayas in distant India. Usually this fragrance was reserved for the wealthy. It has been calculated that it would have cost a working-class person a year’s wages to purchase this jar of perfume, and Mary came from this class in society. Her gift constituted a tremendous sacrifice, but she was glad to do what she could with what she had.

But you might ask the question: What if I don’t have much to give? The answer to this concern is found in the story of another woman in the Bible. She was a desperately poor widow who wanted to give an offering to God’s work. When she thought no one was looking, she threw two copper coins, the smallest in monetary value in circulation at that time, into the offering boxes in the Temple complex. But Jesus had seen her. Turning to his disciples, he told them that this poor widow had given more than all the other donors put together (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Her gift was small, but she did what she could with what she had.

It is not the amount we have to offer that matters, but rather the attitude that we display in using our resources. The value of the gifts offered by Mary and this widow differed greatly, but their motives were the same. They showed the same qualities of giving, commitment and service.

And that is the challenge for us as we use our material resources and personal talents. God asks us to do what we can with what we have, with what has been entrusted to us, and He is completely fair in his expectation