Last Christmas I had a major dilemma. As I looked at the Nieman-Marcus Christmas Catalog, I couldn’t decide from all of those cool, original gifts. The five-band emerald cut diamond bracelet almost had me. It was only half a million dollars. Then I remembered that Lucy doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry. It’s distracting when she’s interpreting. Then, I fell in love with the perfect gift. It was the Cobalt Valkyrie-X Private Plane for one and a half million dollars. Perfect. She could get wherever she needed to get to without all that TSA searching. Then it hit me: she doesn’t have a pilot’s license. I was devastated. Imagine the feeling looking at the most extravagant gift catalog on the planet and not finding one gift worthy of the one you love. I got her a stuffed animal instead.
Alright, as you might guess, most of the above is pure fiction. I know better than to look at that catalog. Nothing is in my price range there. Those gifts are extravagant – often needing a lifetime or two worth of income to purchase. My wife and I are very practical. A lot of times we don’t even give gifts on those traditional days because we get the things we want and need when we see them. (All with cash, though.) Some people are more extravagant in their giving as noted by that catalog. Jesus was the recipient of an extravagant gift and it created a firestorm among the disciples. “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.” (Matthew 26:6-7)
If you put yourself in the mind of the average Jew around that time, this story should never have happened. First, Jesus was eating in the home of a leper. Religious Taboo! My guess is that Jesus had healed him, but he kept the nickname. Second, a woman walks into the meal to approach Jesus. Social Taboo! She took an alabaster jar, filled with perfume, broke that jar and poured it over Jesus head. When you can buy perfume in any major department store, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. In those times, a jar like that was saved and preserved until the time of the funeral. People would save up to buy that kind of perfume to make sure that they were buried in the right fashion. It was costly. Nieman-Marcus style costly. The disciples were indignant because instead of wasting it on Jesus, she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. For Judas, it was the last straw and he went to the chief priests to negotiate the capture of Jesus. This woman understood something the disciples refused to understand. She understood that Jesus was destined to die soon and she gave her life savings to honor Him and prepare Him for burial. Jesus, who didn’t worry about a lot of material things, defended and honored this woman’s choice, extravagant as it was, because it revealed her heart.
I think that we tend to be too careful in our relationship with Jesus. This woman didn’t care what anyone thought about her, or about her gift. She just wanted to give everything to Him. We are careful to avoid looking like that. We moderate our worship, lest anyone think that we’re too enthusiastic about our faith. We don’t talk about our faith with people who need to hear the gospel lest they think we’re a bit fanatical. We may give to the church, but not too much because someone might find out that we waste our money like that. I mean, think of all the things you could do with the money you give to the church! God doesn’t call us to a moderate faith, though. He calls us to an extravagant faith. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could have a nice, warm fuzzy feeling about life; He died to redeem us and bring us into a relationship with God that is life changing and empowering. Our response to Him should be extravagant and enthusiastic. We should be excited about our relationship with the one who made the universe. Make today extravagant for God as you minister to others.
Lord, remind me of Your awesomeness today. Help me to be willing to give extravagantly to help others know You and experience Your love.