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Giving from the Heart

Misunderstanding motives

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider that God knows the intentions of our hearts.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the students if any of them have a favourite fragrance.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Show the images of various fragrances.

    You may wish to ask the students for a show of hands to vote for their favourite fragrance.

  2. Point out that fragrances have all kinds of scents, so shops often have sample bottles available to help people to choose which smell they prefer.

  3. Explain that you are going to show some anagrams of perfume designers and you want the students to try to work out the name of each one.

    You may wish to ask the students to shout out an answer or raise their hands. Alternatively, you may wish to invite several students to the front to compete against each other.

    The answers are as follows.

    - AIRMAN is Armani
    - RED BOY is Byredo
    - SO BOUGHS is Hugo Boss
    - AGILE RUN is Guerlain
    - CHEVYING is Givenchy
    - RELATE SUEDE is Estee Lauder

  4. Show the image of Clive Christian No1 Passant Guardant.

    Explain that this is one of the world’s most expensive perfumes and contains sandalwood, musk, clove and vanilla, among many other ingredients. The cost of this perfume, with its crystal bottle featuring 24-carat gold and diamonds, is £143,000!

  5. Explain that buying a fragrance can be a tricky experience. Not only is there a wide variety of scents, there are also several other differences, such as the make-up of the fragrance.

    Ask if anyone knows the difference between eau de toilette, parfum and eau de parfum.

    The answer is that they each have different concentrations of perfume essence:

    - parfum has a 15-30 per cent concentration
    - eau de parfum has an 8-15 per cent concentration
    - eau de toilette has a 5-8 per cent concentration

    Optional: you may wish to tell the students this handy tip. If you find that the smell of your fragrance seems to wear off too quickly, there is a way to make it last longer. To get the longest-lasting results from perfume, try rubbing a little petroleum jelly on your pulse points before you spray them with perfume. The ointment in the jelly holds the fragrance for longer.

  6. Ask the students to imagine being given a really expensive bottle of fragrance. It’s possible that we wouldn’t wear this fragrance every day, but keep it for special occasions. We would probably keep it in its box, and possibly in a drawer so that the perfume was kept safe and fresh for as long as possible. We might be very reluctant to lend it to family members or friends.

  7. Ask the students to imagine that a visitor has arrived at their house and someone decides to welcome the visitor by giving away your fragrance. Not only do they give it away, they decide to pour out the bottle lavishly on the visitor’s head!

    What might the reaction be?

    Point out that in the Bible, this is exactly what a woman did for Jesus. The reactions of the people there were probably quite similar to the reactions that we can imagine in our own homes!

  8. In Hebrew culture, people showed hospitality to guests by providing a bowl of water for them to wash their dusty feet. They would often add a few drops of perfume to the water.

    In this story from the Bible, Mary, Lazarus sister, enters the room. She breaks open an alabaster box of pure nard, a perfume whose cost was the equivalent of one year’s wages, and begins to pour it out over the guest, Jesus. You can imagine the shock in the room!

    For one thing, Mary was a woman of ill repute, so most people didn’t think that she should be in Jesus presence in the first place. The elders of the community were enjoying a relaxing meal in the company of Jesus. She was definitely intruding on their space!

    Second, Mary poured the expensive perfume over Jesus head and feet with a great deal of weeping and emotion.

  9. Read or ask a student to read the Bible passage, Mark 14.3-5.

    We may think that Jesus, with his passion for the poor, would agree that it would have been better to sell the perfume and give the proceeds to the poor, but that he would communicate this more gently to Mary.

    Let’s listen to his reaction.

  10. Read or ask a student to read the Bible passage, Mark 14.6.

    Jesus knew that what the woman had done came from her heart, so he said, ‘She has done a beautiful thing to me.’

    Jesus appreciated her show of love for him.

  11. There was another reason that he commended her.

    Read or ask a student to read the Bible passage, Mark 14.7-9.

    Jesus knew that he would soon be crucified and that his body would be wrapped in perfumed cloths and buried. Her gift to him was a prophetic sign of what was ahead.

    People all over the world would hear of what she did. Jesus didn’t think it was a waste; instead, he regarded it as an act of love and kindness.

  12. Read or ask a student to read the Bible passage, Mark 14.10-11.

    For one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, the one who was the treasurer of the disciples money, this was the last straw! He sneaked away to betray Jesus to the chief priests for a mere 30 pieces of silver.

  13. Ask the students, ‘How do you think you would have responded to this woman’s actions?

    Do we judge people quickly? Or do we consider people’s motives for doing something before immediately jumping to conclusions?

Time for reflection

Ask the students, ‘Have you ever been misunderstood?’

Maybe we’ve tried to do something good, but things went wrong and we ended up in trouble. Maybe people have misunderstood something that we have said or an action that we have taken.

Often, our good intentions can be misunderstood by others. A commonly heard phrase is, ‘But I was only trying to . . .’

The Bible story that we heard shows us that even though lots of people misunderstood the woman and her actions, Jesus saw her heart and understood her motives. Christians believe that God sees their hearts and understands their motives. They believe that Jesus understood this woman’s heart, and he understands ours, too.

Let’s pause to consider whether we have misunderstood someone’s motives recently. Do we need to apologize?

Let’s think about our own actions. Are our motives good? Do we need to ask for forgiveness?

Dear God,
Thank you that you know all things and see all things.
Thank you that you understand our actions and you know that these can be misunderstood.
Help us always to choose to do what is right, loving and kind, knowing that you see the intentions of our hearts.

Publication date: April 2019   (Vol.21 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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