The Bare Minimum
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. John 12:3
My visit to inpatient chemical dependency treatment (2014) was not my first attempt at recovery. I’d completed out-patient treatment twice prior to that. Both times, I applied the same effort as I did with many college papers, doing only the bare minimum necessary. I thought those who were fanatical about recovery were weird. Those who committed to it with radical abandon though, were the ones who didn’t have to go back. They stayed sober. Me? I did as little as possible and I got out what I put in – not much. I had to go back a couple times to learn this lesson: If I truly wanted recovery, I was going to have to get a little fanatical about it myself.
I’ve approached my faith with this same bare minimum effort. I’m saved by grace, so there’s nothing I can do to earn my salvation (Ephesians 2:8). All I have to do is believe. I can live however I want and experience forgiveness, simply because of that belief. I did the bare minimum and looked at those who were fanatical about their faith as weirdos. Like my early attempts at recovery, I got out of my relationship with the father what I put in – not much.
In today’s passage, Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, displayed what a radical commitment to Christ looks like. In the story, when Jesus visited their home, Mary spent an extravagant amount of money on a special ointment that she applied to Jesus feet, after which, she wiped them down with her hair. The gesture may seem bizarre to us as we have no cultural reference, but this must be understood as an act of radical love and humility. Mary didn’t care what anyone thought. She didn’t keep her money for herself. She poured out everything she had for her love of Christ. Mary didn’t do the bare minimum. She practiced authentic faith, which transformed her entire life.
If I desire to know the life God intends for me, and if I truly want to experience faith and recovery, then, like Mary, I need to get a little fanatical. I don’t save myself by my actions, but God draws near to me in proportion with how radically I draw near to him (James 4:8).