When Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease, a woman came to him with a vase made of alabaster containing very expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ head while he was sitting at dinner. Now when the disciples saw it they were angry and said, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor.” But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She’s done a good thing for me. 1 You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. 1 By pouring this perfume over my body she’s prepared me to be buried. 1 I tell you the truth that wherever in the whole world this good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:6-13, Common English Bible).
Back in the mid-1980’s, former Ford executive and Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacocca chaired the fundraising effort to restore the Statue of Liberty. He shared with Newsweek magazine some of the stories related to the gifts during the campaign.
Perhaps the most touching gift came from 78 homeless Vietnamese refugees, living in a camp in Thailand. They passed the hat and came up with $114.19. These were people who had lost everything but hope. They were willing to give what little they had for that symbol of liberty.
We could easily call what those refugees did silly. What they had to give wasn’t going to make a great deal of difference in the grand scheme of things. It would take more than $230 million to restore the statue and Ellis Island. How much difference would $114 make?
There is also another way of looking at it. A single gift of $114 may not have made a great deal of difference in the collection, but it made a real difference for the donors. Though a half of the world away and living in circumstances that were difficult at best, they gave what they had to an effort greater than themselves. The key is, they gave what they had.
There is a term for that. “Extravagant Generosity” has become a buzz-term in the Church these days. It is the idea of giving but going further. If I give five dollars to a cause, that is nothing. I can afford five dollars for just about anything. That gift shows I have no real commitment to the cause for which I give. I am just giving.
If I dig deeper and instead of five dollars, I give $500. Digging deeper here could represent generosity. I understand that for some the five dollars would be a real sacrifice. That is why I said, “I can afford five dollars.” The same can be said of some people and $500. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and miss the point.
Now, if I were to really dig deep into my finances, took money out of savings, and scraped together $5000 and gave it, now we have moved beyond the generous to the extravagantly generous. Again, for some $5000 is nothing. For me, it would be a real sacrifice.
We see a good example of extravagant generosity in today’s lesson. This woman had to have saved for an extended period of time to be able to possess this jar of perfume. It was, with little doubt, the most valuable thing she owned. Yet she took the perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ feet. It was a sign of love. It was also a great example of extravagant generosity.
I read a definition recently for the word generous. It said, “an unselfish willingness to give sacrificially in order to make a positive difference for the purpose of Christ.” I have no idea whose quote it is. In my very limited search for an author, I found nothing. Still, I like this quote. “…to give sacrificially in order to make a positive difference for the purpose of Christ.” I can think of nothing better than to follow the example of the woman with the alabaster jar.
How do you generate extravagant generosity to make a positive difference for Christ?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved