Why waste oil? (Mt 26:8-26:9)

“But when the disciples

Saw it,

They were angry.

They said.

‘Why this waste?

This ointment

Could have been sold

For a large sum.

The money could have been

Given to the poor.’”

 

ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἠγανάκτησαν λέγοντες Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη;

ἐδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο πραθῆναι πολλοῦ καὶ δοθῆναι πτωχοῖς.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:4-5, and somewhat similar to John, chapter 12:4-6, where Judas Iscariot complained about wasting money and John made derogatory remarks about Judas.  Matthew said that these unnamed disciples saw what had happened (ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ), so that they were angry, incensed, or indignant (ἠγανάκτησαν).  They complained that this was a waste of this precious oil (λέγοντες Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη).  It could have been sold for a large sum (ἐδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο πραθῆναι πολλοῦ), without mentioning the amount of 300 denarii (about $450.00 US), as did Mark and John, for this was very expensive oil.  Then that large sum of money obtained from the sale of this ointment could have been given to the poor (καὶ δοθῆναι πτωχοῖς).  Giving to the poor at the time of Passover was a common custom.

The response of Jesus (Mt 11:4-11:6)

“Jesus answered them.

‘Go on your way!

Tell John

What you hear!

Tell him

What you see!

The blind receive their sight.

The lame people walk.

The lepers are cleansed.

The deaf hear.

The dead are raised up.

The poor have good news

Brought to them.

Blessed is anyone

Who takes no offense at me!’”

 

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάνει ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε·

τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται·

καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

 

This is word for word like Luke, chapter 7:22-23, indicating a possible Q source.  Jesus responded or answered these disciples and their question (καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He told them to report back after their journey to John (εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάνει) what they had heard and seen (ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε).  Then Jesus listed what he had been doing.  The blind recovered their sight (τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν).  The lame people were walking around (καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν).  The lepers were cleansed (, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται).  The deaf were able to hear (καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν).  The dead were raised up (καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται).  The poor and destitute people were getting good news brought to them (καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται).  The blessed, happy, and fortunate people were not scandalized, offended, or stumbled because of Jesus (καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί).  This is a very strong response, as if to say that he was the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one, something that Jesus did not do often.  The messianic expectation was based on Isaiah, chapter 35:4-6, when the savior, their God would come with a vengeance to make up for past problems.  He would come to save them.  Isaiah seems to indicate that there would be a reversal of fortune, a change in the ways that things happen.  The blind would see.  The deaf would hear.  The lame would run.  The mute people would speak.

Bad behavior (Am 5:10-5:13)

“They hate him

Who reproves

At the gate.

They abhor him

Who speaks the truth.

Therefore,

You trample

On the poor.

You take from them,

Levies of grain.

You have built houses

Of hewn stone.

But you shall not live

In them.

You have planted

Pleasant vineyards.

But you shall not drink

Their wine.

I know how many are

Your transgressions.

I know how great are

Your sins.

You afflict the righteous.

You take a bribe.

You turn aside

The needy

At the gate.

Therefore,

The prudent will keep silent

In such a time.

It is an evil time.”

Next, Amos listed all the bad behavior that the northern Israelites were involved with. They did not like any reprimanding at the city judgment gate. They did not like anyone who told the truth. They trampled the poor people, as they took away their grain. They had built beautiful stone houses, but they were not going to live in them. They had planted wonderful vineyards, but they would not drink the wine from them. Amos and Yahweh knew all about their various transgressions and how great their sins were. They took bribes, mistreated the righteous, and turned away the needy at the gate. The prudent people kept silent during this evil time.

God of water (Isa 41:17-41:18)

“When the poor seek water,

When the needy seek water,

There is none.

Their tongues

Are parched with thirst.

I!

Yahweh!

Will answer them!

I!

The God of Israel!

Will not forsake them!

I will open rivers

on the bare trails!

I will open fountains

In the midst of the valleys!

I will make the wilderness

A pool of water!

I will make

The dry land springs of water!”

Yahweh, maintaining the first person singular in Second Isaiah, says that he will provide water for the thirsty poor people and the parched needy ones. He would not forget them, but he would answer them. He will open up rivers on the bare trails. He will open up fountains of water in the valleys. In fact, he will make the great desert wilderness like a pool of water. There will be springs of water where there was a dry land area. Don’t worry about water! Yahweh will take care of things.

The powerful judgment of Yahweh (Isa 3:13-3:15)

“Yahweh rises to argue his case.

He stands to judge the people.

Yahweh enters into judgment

With the elders,

With the princes of his people.

‘You have devoured the vineyard.

The spoil of the poor

Is in your houses.

What do you mean

By crushing my people?

Why are you grinding

The face of the poor?’

Says Yahweh,

God of hosts.”

Isaiah says that Yahweh has presented his case. He has judged his people, especially the elders and the princes, who have devoured the vineyards. They have taken the spoils or goods of their own poor people into their own homes. They are crushing the people and grinding the faces of the poor. This clearly is an oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah.

Sirach’s qualifications (Sir 33:16-33:18)

“I was the last

To keep vigil.

I was like a gleaner

Following the grape-pickers.

By the blessing of the Lord,

I arrived first.

Like a grape-picker,

I filled my wine press.

Consider that I have not labored

For myself alone.

But I labored

For all who seek instruction.

Hear me!

You!

Who are great among the people!

You!

Leaders of the congregation!

Pay heed!”

This biblical book takes a very personal tone as Sirach defends his position as a teacher. He was the last one to keep the vigil in his congregation. He compared his position to the gleaners who came after the grape-pickers. The mostly poor gleaners picked up the leftover grapes after the good grapes had been picked. However, by the grace of God, Sirach was able to fill up his wine press with all his grapes. In other words, he was not originally a major figure in his religious assembly, but he has progressed. He was not working for himself, but for all those who wanted further instruction about the law. Thus he proclaimed in the assembled congregation that they should listen to him. They should pay attention to him.

The wealthy (Sir 31:1-31:4)

“Wakefulness over wealth

Wastes away one’s flesh.

Anxiety about wealth

Drives away sleep.

Wakeful anxiety prevents slumber.

A severe illness carries off sleep.

The rich person toils

To amass a fortune.

When he rests,

He fills himself with his dainties.

The poor person toils

To make a meager living.

If ever he rests,

He becomes needy.”

Sirach believes that the wealthy worry too much about their wealth. They are awake all the time, because their anxiety forces them to not get enough sleep. Their worries waste away their bodies, so that they probably will get a severe illness. Then Sirach has a contrast between the rich person who stops working, only to enjoy his delicacies, and the poor person who can hardly stop working because he would fall into poverty. The rich work to amass a fortune, while the poor work to earn a meager living.

Health (Sir 30:14-30:17)

“Better off is a poor person

Who is healthy and fit

Than a rich person

Who is afflicted in his body.

Health is better

Than any gold.

Fitness is better

Than any gold.

A robust body is better

Than countless riches.

There is no wealth better

Than the health of a body.

There is no gladness

Above joy of the heart.

Death is better

Than a miserable life.

Eternal sleep is better

Than chronic sickness.”

Sirah proclaims that a poor healthy fit person is better off than an afflicted sickly rich person. Good health and fitness are better than any gold. A robust healthy body is better than wealth. A joyful heart is full of gladness. Death is better than a miserable life. Eternal death is better than a chronic sickness. Sirach almost seems to imply that euthanasia would be better than life with a chronic illness.

Almsgiving (Sir 29:8-29:13)

“Be patient with someone

In humble circumstances.

Do not keep him waiting

For your alms.

Help the poor man

For the commandment’s sake.

In their need,

Do not send them away

Empty-handed.

Lose your silver

For the sake of a brother.

Lose your silver

For the sake of a friend.

Do not let your silver rust

Under a stone.

Do not let your silver be lost.

Lay up your treasure

According to the commandments

Of the Most High.

It will profit you

More than gold.

Store up almsgiving

In your treasury.

It will rescue you

From every disaster.

Better than a stout shield,

Better than a sturdy spear,

It will fight for you

Against the enemy.”

You should be patient with people in humble poor circumstances. You should not make them wait for your almsgiving gift. You are only following the commandments when you give to the poor. You should not send the needy away empty-handed. You should give your silver to a brother or a friend. Do not let your silver rust or get lost under a stone. Circulate money. Your treasure should be in the commandments of the Most High God that are more profitable than gold. Your treasury should be filled with almsgiving, so that it can rescue you from any disaster that might come your way. Almsgiving is better than a strong shield or spear in the fight against your enemy.

The good wife (Sir 26:1-26:4)

“Happy is the husband

Of a good wife.

The number of his days

Will be doubled.

A loyal wife brings joy

To her husband.

He will complete

His years in peace.

A good wife is

A great blessing.

She will be granted

Among the blessings

Of the man who fears the Lord.

Whether rich or poor,

His heart is content.

At all times,

His face is cheerful.”

Now we see the opposite, the good wife.   Sirach says that a husband will be happy if he has a good loyal wife. She will bring joy to her husband. He will live twice as long, and complete his years in peace. This good wife is a great blessing, especially for those who fear the Lord. Whether rich or poor, he will be content at all times with the cheerful face of his good wife. It seems that the burden of any marriage falls on the wife rather than the husband.