Blessed… Extravagant Generosity

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.  You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.  By pouring this perfume over my body she’s prepared me to be buried.  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,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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