John 12:3-8:

3 "Mary then took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, the one who intended to betray Him, *said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the proceeds given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he kept the money box, he used to steal from what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

What is the current day practical lesson of verse 8?

"For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me"

Jesus is complimenting Mary for anointing his feet with expensive perfume, but how could we as modern day Christians worship Jesus in such an equivalent way?

  • 1
    Mary had understood the pending death of Jesus. The verse implies nard is part of the funeral preparations (possibly to mask the scent of the decaying body) hence her actions. The disciples definitely did not understand this (Peter's response Matt 16:22 "Lord: this shall never be unto thee", i.e. being killed). Openly proclaiming Jesus death and resurrection and financially supporting mission is a contemporary example.
    – M__
    Jul 26 at 23:43

3 Answers 3


The moral is that devotion to Jesus is even more important than charity. That is quite clear from the fact that Judas objects to use of the perfume on that ground that it should be sold to help the poor. Incidentally, although John's gospel tells us Judas was insincere in this objection, other gospels say he was not alone in his objection:

4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. (Mk. 14)

It is still true today that devotion to God is even more important than mere charity to the poor. The saying should not, however, be taken as an excuse to ignore one's duty to poor. From the prophets to Jesus and the apostles, this duty has been recognized as an essential part of true religion.

  • “You have sent widows away empty, And the strength of the orphans has been crushed. 10 “Therefore snares surround you, And sudden dread terrifies you. (Job 22:9-10)

  • When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:22)

  • Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)

Thus, the moral of the story told in John 12 is that one should make devotion to God and Jesus one's top priority. However this by no means excuses one for ignoring the Bible's teachings about caring for the poor.


OP What is the current day practical lesson of verse 8? "For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me"

The contrast is between the (definite article) poor as a continuing group/type of person and the singular visitation of Messiah with a birth and a death. The resurrection was in His glorified body.

John 12:8 is a reference to Deut 15:11.

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

From a practical lesson, people should help the poor.

One might wonder about using an intermediary or not in one's giving, whether it should be directly or indirectly (through a church and we all know of some churches that certainly are rich). Mary's gift was directly. Since His ascension, that element is not existent, rather give to the poor.


Mary's use of rare, expensive perfume to anoint Jesus rather than selling it for charity indicates she prioritized expressing devotion to Christ above material or financial concerns, as

"no gift or act of devotion, however great, can equal the infinite worth of Christ" (Thomas Aquinas). This suggests Jesus deserves lavish expressions of worship from his followers, for "to be true followers of Christ...we must also pattern our behavior after his" (St. Benedict).

Jesus' defense of Mary's action in verse 7 implies he finds sincere love and adoration from devotees extremely meaningful and valuable, "regardless of apparent wastefulness" (John Henry Newman). As Jesus said,

where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21)

and Mary's treasure was Christ.

The contrast between Judas' criticism and Jesus' praise highlights differing perspectives on honoring Jesus. It reveals Jesus cares more about love's sincere expression than outward displays, as "the ointment which Mary offered to the Lord was the offering of her heart" (Newman). As David sought God's heart over religious rituals (Psalms 40:6), Jesus wants our heartfelt worship.

Jesus' remark on the permanence of poverty in verse 8 does not downplay benevolence, but underscores Christ's singular preciousness and fleeting presence to receive personal worship. In summary, this passage emphasizes Christ's supreme value deserving our total devotion, adoration and sacrifice. Like Mary, sincere worship requires lavishly pouring out our all.

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