“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” (II Corinthians 2:14-15, New Living Translation)
We all react differently to the various fragrances and smells our noses encounter each day. Some smells are pleasant; others stink and make us step back. (Think body odor or garbage.) A smell doesn’t have to be “bad” to bother us. I recently attended a performance, and the person seated behind me had drenched themselves in a scent that caused me to choke up. To some it might seem pleasant; but to someone with allergies, it becomes very unpleasant.
For many women, a dab of perfume behind the ear is the finishing touch of getting dressed. A soft cloud of scent follows them throughout the day. Perfume is considered a romantic gift, and most women enjoy receiving it. But neither I, nor any of my friends, has ever been gifted with the most expensive perfume in the world—at a mere one million dollars. Although much of that cost was probably for the gold and bejeweled bottle, many rare ingredients in fragrances are quite costly. Some subtle odors in natural oils can be duplicated artificially, but others are so complex that they are impossible to reproduce. This explains why some of our favorite perfumes are so expensive and also why some of the “impostors” never quite measure up.
The Fragrance of Our Worship
Fragrance was an intricate part of Old Testament worship. The Lord gave Moses precise instructions on making perfume for use in the Tabernacle. (See Exodus 30:34-38 and 37:29.) It was never to be duplicated for personal use; it was holy to God. “And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy” (verse 35). Another translation reads “a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.”
We also see fragrance in New Testament worship through the act of love Mary showed toward Jesus. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3). Everyone there could smell the fragrance of her extravagant act of worship.
The Fragrance of Our Testimony
Second Corinthians 2:15 compares our lives to a sweet savour (or perfume) unto the Lord. The fragrance of it gives testimony to those around us, both saved and unsaved. Like the perfume of Tabernacle worship, our lives need salt, purity, and holiness. Without the compound of these vital ingredients, its perfume does not touch the world for God. This sweet smell cannot be replicated artificially; it is the result of a Spirit-controlled life.
The next time you put on perfume, breathe a prayer that wherever you go that day the fragrance of the Lord will follow. Let every word and action be a sweet scent of godliness to the world and of worship to God.