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In John 12:3-8 (NKJV)

3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Do you think the concern (made maliciously) by Judas Iscariot, is exhaustively answered by Jesus here? Is this point addressed anywhere else? Does He give guidance as to when we should use temporal goods (fragrant oil) to glorify Him, and when we should "sell them and give to the poor" as suggested by Judas?

EDIT My question could be restated as, in light of this passage, if I had a fragrant oil, should I use it to anoint the feet of Jesus or should I sell the oil to give money to the poor? I was wondering if this was addressed somewhere else in the scriptures. It relates to a criticism I often hear in the lines of "the money spent to build eg St. Peter, should have been used to feed the poor and not in expensive marbles etc."

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  • My answer is "yes". What more needs to be said?
    – Dottard
    Mar 29 at 10:42
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Jesus did not directly address Judas’ question, perhaps because he knew what was really on Judas' mind, that he had more interest in money than he had concern for the poor:

  • v. 5-6 - “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

Judas was quick to assess the value of the oil, but slow to appreciate the love and devotion that lay behind Mary’s gesture. Jesus, on the other hand, is always attentive to a person’s heart.

  • v.7 - But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

I’m not sure whether Jesus’ words answer the OP’s question, but they do shed light on the true value of any gift, and here Mother Teresa’s wisdom also comes to mind:

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” - Mother Teresa

The following NT verses may be relevant, but they seem to suggest that that which we give to the poor and that which we offer to Jesus are not mutually exclusive. That is, whatever we do for the poor will be accepted as though it had been done for Jesus himself:

  • For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me… Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Mt 25:35-40)
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Do you think the concern (made maliciously) by Judas Iscariot, is exhaustively answered by Jesus here?

Judas' real concern was his own pocket:

6 This he [Judas] said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

Does He give guidance as to when we should use temporal goods (fragrant oil) to glorify Him?

Jesus didn't say here to use temporal goods (fragrant oil) to glorify Him. More precisely:

7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

Does Jesus answer Judas in John 12:3-8?

Perfectly, despite Judas' pretension.

if I had a fragrant oil, should I use it to anoint the feet of Jesus or should I sell the oil to give money to the poor?

I would definitely use it to anoint the feet of Jesus.

"the money spent to build eg St. Peter, should have been used to feed the poor and not in expensive marbles etc."

Are you equating Jesus with the building of St. Peter?

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  • thanks, I added some clarifications Mar 29 at 22:28
  • I added to my answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 29 at 23:46
  • I was interpreting the passage metaphorically, anoint the feet of Jesus (building St. Peter) or sell the fragrant oil (use the money to feed the poor) Mar 30 at 19:45
  • Well, Judas wasn't.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 30 at 20:02

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