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Mark 14:5

ESV For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
NIV It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly.
NASB For this perfume could have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.' And they were scolding her.
CSB For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they began to scold her.
NLT It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!' So they scolded her harshly.
KJV For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

What does Mark 14:5 mean?

John 12:2–8 mentions a very similar account from four days earlier. John identified the grumbler as Judas Iscariot who was less concerned with feeding the poor and more concerned with having the opportunity to steal the money. A denarius is a day's wage for a laborer. Taking away the Sabbaths and other special feast days, 300 denarii would be about a year's income. Mark 6:37 says that two hundred denarii is enough to feed at least 5,000 people, so three hundred denarii could presumably feed at least 7,500 people.

We're never told why the woman owns such expensive perfume. In many cultures throughout history women have been restricted from owning land, businesses, and other property. They could, however, own clothing and jewelry. It could be that this perfume is the woman's nest egg—her life savings or even her dowry.

Jesus' relationship with money easily confuses those with more worldly practicalities. Jesus describes His lack of possessions as a simple fact, not as something to change (Matthew 8:19–20). He approves of the rich young man for his faithful adherence to the Commandments regarding godly treatment of others, but challenges his dependence on his money (Mark 10:17–22). Jesus doesn't tell him to give away his riches because that will save him, but so that nothing will come between him and God. In the temple, Jesus explains that giving a lot, even to God's purposes, is a worldly standard, while giving with a loving, sacrificial heart honors God, no matter what the amount (Mark 12:41–44).

Although this woman's offering is extravagant, the way in which she gives it is a better indication of her intent than the value of the perfume. Jesus is reclining at a table when she boldly approaches (Hebrews 4:16) and pours the perfume on His head. Conversely, the disciples' contempt reveals their misguided priorities more than their generosity-by-proxy. They have a tendency to disregard anyone they do not find worthy of their Master's presence, including strangers (Mark 9:38–41) and children (Mark 10:13–16). Every cultural tradition tells them that Jesus will rescue Israel from Roman rule and they will receive thrones to judge at His side (Matthew 19:28). The truth of Jesus' sacrifice for the redemption of the world is hidden from them (Luke 18:31–34). The church will be built not by earthly ambition but by men whose hearts of stone die in humiliation at the cross and who receive hearts of flesh by the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–4).
What is the Gospel?
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