Jesus had come to Bethany and was visiting in the house of Simon the leper. While he was sitting at dinner, Mary came into the house with an alabaster box of expensive ointment. She opened the box and poured the ointment upon the head of Jesus. There was in the house one who was upset with her, and with Jesus, for allowing her to do this. Judas Iscariot cried, “Why was this waste of the ointment made?” He declared that it could have been sold for “three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor” (Mark 14: 4-5; John 12:3-5). The Lord’s reply was “ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always” (Mark 14:7). My question is, why must we “have the poor” with us always?
Perhaps it has to do with a loving Father in Heaven giving us the opportunity to learn and grow through service. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35-36). The righteous will ask when did we do all this service? The answer will be, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
But what about those who fit into the categories of hungered, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or prisoner? Must they always be the recipients of service, and never the givers of service? How do they “learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17)?
The story that follows might help us understand service from a different viewpoint. It will perhaps help us step aside and look at it from a different perspective. It is shared with us by Sister Arlene Jacobson Crump Rowberry.
“I had the privilege of being one of the nurses for President Ezra Taft Benson and for his wife Flora during their last years of life. It was in their home that I attended to their needs. One afternoon while taking care of Sister Benson, I had an enlightening spiritual experience about the meaning of service.
“Sister Benson had experienced a stroke and required total care. One day as she was sleeping, I was sitting near her bed, reading from the book Ezra Taft Benson, absorbing all of the things that this woman had done and had been, and all of the service that she had given. As I looked at Sister Benson, unable to do any of the things she enjoyed doing, my heart ached for her. And then I thought about myself growing old, and I said a silent prayer; ‘Oh Heavenly Father, if I have to grow old like sister Benson, please let me have good health so that I can keep serving to the end of my days’. Immediately I felt a feeling of chastisement come over me and into my mind came the understanding ‘She is serving! She is serving you...for if it were not for her health condition you would not have the privilege of being here in her home.’ I suddenly understood a whole new area of service that I had never before recognized. There is more to service than doing for others. Having to endure infirmities while others take care of us, is a service. This was new insight to me.
“I shared that experience with her, and at a later time with President Benson. They both had tears fill their eyes, and I knew that the spirit had born witness to each of them that they were still serving” (Personal experience of Arlene Jacobson Crump Rowberry).
Instead of feeling wonderful and proud for serving the “hungered, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or prisoner,” perhaps we should be expressing gratitude for the service they perform by allowing us to learn how to serve them. We need to be grateful to those who give us the opportunity to learn service and forgiveness, and to learn the meaning of righteous judgment. We need to be grateful for those who give us the opportunity to learn to be more Christ like. Perhaps those who bring us the greatest pain and sorrow are really giving us the greatest opportunities for learning about service. Maybe without them or us realizing it, they are serving their “fellow beings.”
We have been taught that the family is the most important unit in society. We must serve first in our families and “teach them to walk in the ways of truth . . . to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15). So next time a baby cries at 2:00 am, give thanks that your child is giving you the opportunity to serve. If your family is blessed with a handicaped child, give thanks that your child is giving you the opportunity to serve. If your teenager is struggling with lifestyle challenges, give thanks for the opportunity to serve and to learn Christ-like love. The next time you have the opportunity to buy a child clothes, or help them smile, or spend a little time with them, give thanks for the service they are providing you.
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God” (Mosiah 4:19).