By Tim Challies
I have always been glad that there was one person who brought out her alabaster jar and anointed the Lord before his burial. Most people would have waited. They would have kept the jar sealed until after his death. Only then, when his body was torn and cold, would they have broken it open to anoint him. But this one woman did not wait. She opened the jar while he could still enjoy its scent, and while his worn and weary feet could still be refreshed.
You don’t have to read between the lines to find the lesson. After a man dies, there is no lack of alabaster jars to be brought out and unsealed. It is then that the kindest words are spoken. It is then that his loved ones forget all his mistakes, follies, and sins to tell of his virtues. His friends recount all the wonderful things he did, the generosity he showed, and the kindness he extended. Everyone that knew him visits his family to say some kind word, to recount a favor they received or a noble deed they witnessed. Close friends order flowers to be sent with their card and laid on his coffin.
There is nothing wrong in all this. Flowers on a coffin are appropriate tokens of love and respect. The kind words are fitting, too. There is no better tribute to a life than the sincere accolades of grieving friends and family members.
But in the meantime, there is a host of weary men and women toiling toward the grave who sorely need what we can give them right now. We are gathering incense to pour on their coffins, but why shouldn’t we pour it over them today? Kind words are lying in our hearts unexpressed, and resting on our tongues unspoken. These are the very words we will speak when these weary people are dead. Why shouldn’t we speak them now, when they would do so much good, and when hearing them would bring such encouragement?