Blessed… He Fell On His Face

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.”  When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:36-39, Common English Bible).

The picture on the left above is probably the most traditional and recognizable of all the pictures of Jesus praying in the Garden. We see this picture all the time, particularly in church buildings. Sometimes we see it framed and hanging on the wall. At other times we see it in stained glass windows. There is little doubt it is the most common for people to see.

That picture bothers me. It isn’t Biblical at all. The only thing that picture has in common with the picture described in Matthew 26:36-39 is, Jesus is praying in the Garden. Other than that, it isn’t even the same picture. When we listen to Matthew’s words, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying…. Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed…” The picture has this very serene, calm and collected Jesus praying as if he had no clue anything was about to happen. This isn’t a man who feared he was dying. Additionally, he isn’t prostrate, face to the ground.

I believe the picture top right above is far closer to what Jesus would have looked like in prayer that night. He is upset. He knows what is coming and is begging for it not to happen. And yet, he submits to the will of God.

The thing that impresses me most in this story is, even though Jesus knew what was about to happen, he stopped and prayed. He prayed that God takes the future he sees away, but then he is still willing to do what has to be done.

How often do we forget to pray when things get tough? And friends, I don’t mean we are about to die tough. Further, we, at best grumble pretty loudly when things don’t go our way. So much for “Not what I want, but what you want.

There is an old choir anthem I remember hearing probably a gillion times over the years.  The chorus says,  “He could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world and set him free. He could have called ten thousand angels, B=but he died alone, for you and me.”

He fell on his face. And, in the end, said, “Not what I want but what you want.” Thanks be to Jesus, the Savior of the world, that he was willing to endure and die, for you and for me.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Average Joes… Riding on a Donkey

Riding on a Donkey

22 Then God became angry because he went. So while he was riding on his donkey accompanied by his two servants, the Lord’s messenger stood in the road as his adversary. 23 The donkey saw the Lord’s messenger standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned from the road and went into the field. Balaam struck the donkey in order to turn him back onto the road. 24 Then the Lord’s messenger stood in the narrow path between vineyards with a stone wall on each side. 25 When the donkey saw the Lord’s messenger, it leaned against the wall and squeezed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he continued to beat it. 26 The Lord’s messenger persisted and crossed over and stood in a narrow place, where it wasn’t possible to turn either right or left. 27 The donkey saw the Lord’s messenger and lay down underneath Balaam. Balaam became angry and beat the donkey with the rod. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you’ve beaten me these three times?”

29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you’ve tormented me. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on whom you’ve often ridden to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

Balaam said, “No.”

31 Then the Lord uncovered Balaam’s eyes, and Balaam saw the Lord’s messenger standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand. Then he bowed low and worshipped. 32 The Lord’s messenger said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I’ve come out here as an adversary, because you took the road recklessly in front of me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it hadn’t turned away from me, I would just now have killed you and let it live.”

34 Balaam said to the Lord’s messenger, “I’ve sinned, because I didn’t know that you were standing against me in the road. Now, if you think it’s wrong, I’ll go back.”

35 The Lord’s messenger said to Balaam, “Go with the men. But don’t say anything. Say only that which I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials (Numbers 22:22-35, Common English Bible).

Friends, I am not a very nice person. I did a lot that was bad in my life. I did my absolute best to offer a curse over Israel. I angered the king of Moab. I told him he could defeat Israel by offering opportunities for sexual immorality between Israel and the women of Moab. Beyond all of that, I severely beat my donkey. I was inconvenienced but the donkey was actually protecting me. For his trouble, I gave the donkey a beating such that he had never seen before. It is a good thing your SPCA wasn’t around in my day. Surely I would have gone to jail for animal cruelty. Israel considered me one of the most wicked of men.

When the Israelites came across the Jordan things went well for them. Things didn’t go well for those who already lived there. Such is the nature of battle and forced land acquisition. For someone to do well, someone else will almost always lose in the process.

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan they immediately beat two strong armies. They fought Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan. The Israelites won handily. That got the attention of Balak, king of Moab. It would only make sense that after seeing two of his fellow kings lose to the Israelites that he wouldn’t want to face them. Though I know Balak would never admit as much, he feared the Israelites and would rather find a peaceful way not to lose.

Balak thought he had a plan so he sent messengers to Midian to find me and bring me back to him. I knew they were coming YHWH had told me as much in a dream. In that same dream, I was told not to go back with the messengers. I sent word back to Balak through his messengers that I was not able to do something YHWH would not allow me to do. I told him about the dream and YHWH’s instructions not to travel to Balak.

So, what did the king of Moab do next? Balak sent more messengers. These were people of higher rank. These were people of greater means. They were more important than the first set of messengers. They also brought the promise of payment. All I had to do was go to Moab and meet with the king and then pronounce a curse on Israel.

I wanted to go. Israel meant nothing to me. What is one little curse in return for the riches that would come my way from King Balak? When these guys showed up I told them I must inquire of YHWH before I could either go with them to Moab or even given them an answer. God came to me in the night and said I could go but I was only to say what God told me to say. I was really happy about going and I was really hoping YHWH would allow me to say something to satisfy Balak enough that I could get a nice payday.

And that is when the weirdness started to happen. The next morning I got up, saddled my donkey and along with my two servants I started making my way to Moab. I say it started getting weird because YHWH became angry with me for going to Moab. Now excuse me, folks. God said I could go. Why would God become angry with me for me doing the very thing God said I could do? Can someone please explain this to me? I do not understand, at all.

Anyway, not knowing YHWH was angry at this time, I start making my way toward Moab on my donkey when suddenly my donkey starts acting like, well a donkey. He becomes stubborn and does things like refusing to go forward. First, instead of going down the road we were traveling, the donkey suddenly decides to take the scenic route. He turns off the road and walks out into a field.

I am not happy. I am not happy at all. I am angry. There is a payday waiting for me in Moab and this stupid donkey decides to take a detour. I started beating the donkey. The dumb animal couldn’t understand he was now messing with my money and nobody messes with Balaam’s money. No, I guess he didn’t understand how could he? At that point, it didn’t matter. In the donkey-human relationship, I am the boss and the animal was defying my authority. I started beating the donkey. I was trying to force it into submission.

Now as we travel we are going down a narrow path through some vineyards. There were stone walls on both sides of the path. We were making progress down the path, trying to get back to the road when all the sudden, for no apparent reason the donkey starts acting like a donkey again. This time he stops in the path, leaned against a stone wall, pinning my foot between him and the wall. I was anything but happy. I was fuming mad. I didn’t have time for all of this. So, once again I start beating on this stubborn animal, trying to get him to move and release my foot. It wasn’t an easy pop on his haunches. I was really beating on him.

I didn’t understand it. While he was a donkey, never before had my animal acted stubborn and unwilling to go on. He actually seemed frightened, frightened of something else, someone else more than he was afraid of me.

Then, right there in the middle of the path, the donkey decided it was time for a nap or a siesta or something. He decides to lay down right there in the path. Even though he was to one side, it would have been difficult for someone to pass by him because he was taking so much of the narrow pathway. This pushed me over the top. I just started whaling on the donkey. I actually broke my riding crop across him so I reached out and picked up a nearby stick and started beating him with it. Did I mention that I was a little mad? And, like I said before, it is a good thing there was no SPCA around. I might have been in big trouble.

And I said this is when things got weird. Though it was already slightly weird with my donkey suddenly becoming so stubborn, it was about to get even weirder. Something was about to happen that I had never seen before. My donkey started talking!!!

Oh, so you don’t believe me? You can ask my two servants. Or, better yet, read your Bible, you can find this part of my story in Numbers 22.

My donkey says to me, “Why are you beating the daylights out of me these three times? What have I done to deserve this?

I have to tell you, friends, as hard as it may be for you to believe, I Balaam, son of Beor, was at a total loss of words. I was speechless, at least for a couple of minutes. Really, do you think you would be talking at this point in the story? I think you also would be speechless. It is not every day one encounters a talking donkey. Such would be an unbelievable occurrence.

I had to respond. I had to say something. Besides, I was still angry and the donkey needed to know I was mad. I answered his “Why are you beating on me question by saying, “Because you’ve tormented me. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now.” I thought I was losing my mind. I was having a conversation with a donkey.

The donkey then continued the dialogue. “Am I not your donkey, on whom you’ve often ridden to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” I said “No.” Like I told you, it was out of character for this donkey to act like a donkey and stubbornly refuse to go in the direction I wanted him to go. Right now it was even more out of character for us both to be carrying on a conversation.

It was time for one more level of weird. This man, this messenger of God as he called himself, this angel, was nowhere to be seen one minute and then stood in front of me, sword drawn in hand, looking at me with a pretty angry stare the next minute.

I was all ears at this point. How much more could happen to make me think things just can’t get any weirder? The messenger of God began to speak. “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I’ve come out here as an adversary because you took the road recklessly in front of me.  The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it hadn’t turned away from me, I would just now have killed you and let it live.”

I have to tell you, I was at a loss as to why this messenger of God or even God himself would want to kill me. I didn’t think I had done anything wrong to this point in the story. I finally decided that for whatever the reason YHWY was angry because I traveled with these men, these emissaries of King Balak. It still didn’t make a lot of sense to me. God had told me I could go. Still, it was the only conclusion that came even close to making sense. “I have sinned,” I said. “Now if you think it is wrong I will go back.”

God’s messenger told me to go ahead with the men but to say only what he told me to say. I thought that was what I was doing when I left in the first place.

When we finally arrived in Moab and met up with King Balak he wasn’t pleased it had taken us so long to arrive.  He felt his problem was urgent and he wanted me to be there before he even sent the first messengers.

I told Balak once again that while I was there and present with him, I could only speak the words God gave me to speak.

The next morning Balak took me to one of the battle fields. He wanted me to curse the Israelites right then and there. I had him build seven altars and then sacrifice a bull and a ram on each altar. Next, I instructed Balak to wait by his burnt offerings while I went and inquired of YHWH.

And, God did give me a word to say to Balak. In essence, I said, “How can I curse that which God hasn’t cursed or denounced what God hasn’t denounced.” Then I gave the Israelites a blessing.

To say Balak was mad would be an understatement. He called me to Moab to curse his enemy Israel but instead, I blessed them. Balak could hardly call it a successful day.

Balak then took me to a second place in the conflict with Israel. Again, he wanted me to curse Israel. But, if I was unable to do that he said I should neither curse them nor bless them. Once again I told him I must do as YHWH instructed. Again Israel, despite the wishes of Balak received a blessing.

Once more Balak took me to a battle site. Once more he asked me to curse his enemy Israel. Once more Israel got a blessing instead. Balak was livid. He told me to get out and go home. He refused to pay me. It was a disastrous scene.

I was prepared to go but before I went I had one more little speech to give to Balak. In that speech, I told him that Israel through the power of YHWH would destroy Moab and all the other kingdoms around. Go would win. And, with that, Balak and I parted ways. I am not sure where Balak went from there but I returned home.

 

 

Balaam did the right thing but for the wrong reasons. God had made Balaam a prophet but all Balaam wanted to do was use the gifts God had given him for his own gain. Balaam was first and foremost about Balaam. That isn’t all that unusual. To varying degrees, we all have times when we are first and foremost about ourselves. We often use divine gifts for personal gain.

I titled this series, “Averages Joes with an Extraordinary Story.” Balaam is an average Joe. Sure he was a prophet but there were prophets throughout the Old Testament. What make’s Balaam’s story extraordinary isn’t that he was a sinful man that God worked through to accomplish something important. It isn’t even that Balaam had an angel talk with him. That happens often in the Bible. It isn’t even that a donkey talked to him though that is pretty extraordinary. The thing that makes Balaam’s story so extraordinary is, even though Balaam was a wicked and sinful man, God made things where Balaam had no choice but to follow God’s will. God used this man, in spite of himself, to do work in the world. And, God did great things through an uncooperative Balaam.

I would challenge you to consider this. If God can accomplish great things through someone as uncooperative and wicked as Balaam, how much more can God do with people who seek after God’s own heart?

God calls us to be at work in the world around us. We can make a difference. The question is, will we do as God calls us.

Blessed… With the Best of Intentions

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Tonight you will all fall away because of me. This is because it is written, I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will go off in all directions.  But after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you to Galilee.” Peter replied, “If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.” Jesus said to him, “I assure you that, before the rooster crows tonight, you will deny me three times.” Peter said, “Even if I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.” All the disciples said the same thing (Matthew 26:31-35, Common English Bible).

Peter had good intentions. All the disciples had good intentions. Jesus told them that they would all fall away. Peter, as Peter always seemed to do, speaks up, saying, “No, not me.” H

Jesus told them that they would all fall away. Peter, as Peter always seemed to do, speaks up, saying, “No, not me.” He had the best of intentions. He truly believed he would never fall away from Jesus.

I feel pretty certain that, while Peter was not speaking for the group, they all had similar sentiments. Who among them, with the exception of Judas would ever want to fall away?

What the disciples in general and Peter in particular truly believed they could stand by Jesus no matter what. And, that sounds really good. But, what Peter and the others were to learn that night is, you can have the best of intentions, but when things get difficult it is easy to lose focus. It is easy to say and do things that might not be said or done otherwise.

The same thing is true for us. Our boss isn’t a believer or at least isn’t real faithful, and wants us to do something that falls outside the boundaries of Christian ethics. We think our job might be on the line so we do that which we know is wrong. Our intentions may have been good but our follow through, our ability to live the lifestyle of Christian morals and ethics is not where it should be. When we do that we know is wrong, we deny Jesus.

If any of us were to ask another Christian, “would you deny Jesus?” Of course, our answer would be “No.” What is more, we mean what we said. But when push comes to shove, we fall short. Perhaps we are afraid. Perhaps we outthink ourselves. Perhaps we lose face with subordinates, peers, and Supervisors. Perhaps we “backslide” and fall into old habits. Whatever it might be, we had really good intentions and then we saw ourselves falling away.

So, what are we to do? We are to remain vigilant.  Beyond that, we must realize we are not alone in all this. We have faithful brothers and sisters who stand with us through times of difficulty. We also have prayer where we speak to God and enlist God’s help in these situations in order that we might maintain our focus and not fall away.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed…Ordinary to Extraordinary

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.  I tell you, I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Then, after singing songs of praise, they went to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:26-30, Common English Bible).

There were a lot of things special about Jesus. Toward the top of the list (but by no means the top) was (or should I say is) his ability to take something very ordinary and do something extraordinary with it. He took an ordinary woman who placed two pennies in the offering and turned it into an extraordinary story about generosity. He took a night in a boat on the rough sea and turned it into an extraordinary experience of him walking on water followed by Peter walking on the water. A dramatic example of living faith. He took five loaves of bread and two fish, pretty ordinary things in Jewish life and did the extraordinary by feeding over 5000 people and having more leftover than what he started with. He took something as ordinary as mud and did the extraordinary by restoring a man’s sight. The list of extraordinary things that Jesus did from ordinary things could get pretty long pretty fast and that is just the things we know from reading the Bible.

And, there is today’s lesson. The meal the disciples shared that night with Jesus was anything but ordinary. It was the Passover meal. Passover is the highest of Holy days for Jews. It commemorates the last of the plagues God set upon Egypt in order to have Pharoah release the Hebrew slaves. It is not an ordinary day and it is not an ordinary meal.

But, just because the day or the meal is not ordinary does not mean there are not ordinary elements to them. Two of the ordinary elements in the Seder Meal is bread and wine. They were typically part of any meal of the Biblical era.

To this day bread is an ordinary part of the meal for many people around the world. When I was a kid, we almost never set down for a meal when bread was not a part of the table. That changed after I became an adult, but as a child, it was a very ordinary side dish of our table.

For those of the Biblical era, it was more than just a side dish. Bread was a utensil. Many people around the globe still use it that way today. As they eat they use the bread to push the food onto a fork or spoon. The bread is used to clean any liquid residue from the plate. It is an ordinary part of the meal.

The wine was also an ordinary part of the meal. It was, as it still is today for many people, a common and accepted part of the meal. How many of us sit down to eat a meal without having something to drink. For us, it might be water, milk, a child’s beverage, soda or an adult beverage, like wine. To have something to drink is a pretty ordinary part of most any meal at most any time in history.

As Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Passover with the Seder meal, Jesus took these two ordinary elements and did the extraordinary with them. He took bread, and after giving thanks he didn’t say the words the disciples would have known, the common words of Passover. Instead, he said, “Take. Eat. This is my body, it is broken for you.”

Then Jesus took the cup of wine, another ordinary element of the meal. And again, he said words that the disciples wouldn’t recognize as part of the Seder. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.”

In both cases, Jesus took the ordinary and he gave us grace, something extraordinary. When you and I come to the table, we remember, we celebrate and we become a part, moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Thanks be to God for the grace given to us as the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… It’s Not Me, Is It?

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?” He replied, “Go into the city, to a certain man, and say, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near. I’m going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.” ’” The disciples did just as Jesus instructed them. They prepared the Passover. That evening he took his place at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating he said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me.” Deeply saddened, each one said to him, “I’m not the one, am I, Lord?” He replied, “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl.  The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.” Now Judas, who would betray him, replied, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You said it” (Matthew 26:17-25, Common English Bible).

“One of you will betray me,” Jesus said.

Then, in turn, each of the disciples asked, “It isn’t me, is it Lord?”

Even Judas, though he had to know it was he, took his turn asking Jesus, “It isn’t me, is it Lord?” I find it interesting that Judas, knowing the deal he made with the Pharisees and Sadducees, that he would ask Jesus the question. He was the only one who knew the answer. Well, him and Jesus.

The truth is, while Judas is the one who would betray Jesus, doing so for personal, financial gain, it could have been any of the disciples. More frightening still, if Jesus were to make the same statement today he made back then, “One of you will betray me,” we might respond by asking, “It’s not me, is it?”

When the disciples bickered among themselves, vying for the best spots, they betrayed Jesus. When the disciples tried to hush those in need so as not to bother Jesus, they betrayed Jesus. When Peter wanted to build three monuments and stay on the Mountain of Transfiguration, he betrayed Jesus. The list could go on. In truth, though Judas was the boldest about it, it could have been any of the twelve.

It could also be us. When we fail to love our neighbor, we betray Jesus. When we fail to worship God in the way God calls us, we betray Jesus. When we put other things in life ahead of our relationship with the Risen Christ, we betray Jesus.

In yesterday and today’s lessons, Judas openly betrayed Jesus. As for the rest of us, we are more often than not, much quieter in our betrayal, far less obvious than was Judas.

But, as we shall see, though the remaining eleven could have and did betray Jesus by the things they do, grace was present for them. When they betrayed, they weren’t banished from the group. As time would move forward, despite their betrayal they grew to fulfill their mission in the early church. That is grace.

That God continues to give us opportunities to serve represents opportunities for us to move forward with the ministries God has given us. Just as it was grace for the eleven, it is also grace for us. God still wants to use us. Despite all we may have done to hinder the Kingdom, God wants us to be at work for His glory anyway. That is grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed…All About the “Benjamins”

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests  and said, “What will you give me if I turn Jesus over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.  From that time on he was looking for an opportunity to turn him in (Matthew 26:14-16, Common English Bible).

In yesterday’s lesson, a woman, in his Gospel John says it was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, brought a jar of expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ feet and then dried the feet with her hair.

One of the twelve, Judas Iscariot, was not impressed by these generous actions. He insisted that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. John also points out that Judas was a thief. John believed Judas wanted the perfume sold because, as the group’s treasurer, he could have helped himself to the money.

I have given this some thought over the past couple of months as I preached on John’s version of this story not long ago. Assuming that John was correct, Judas was all about the money, “all about the Benjamins” as the phrase used to go. Judas wanted what he could get.

Still, what could possess a man to turn on Jesus despite all he had seen during his time as a disciple? When you got to see the miraculous unfold day after day, would that not be enough? Obviously, it was not.

Regardless of whether John’s belief that Judas was a thief or not, it does seem pretty clear that Judas was more motivated by the secular than he was by the spiritual. And, in spite of all we have, all too often, we are more like Judas than most of us would care to admit.

As I write this, I have been researching buying a new car. My current car is getting old and its mileage is getting pretty high. Even if I choose not to buy now, I will probably have to buy before much longer. The temptation is to buy not for practical reasons but to buy for status reasons. I want one car even if having it makes no sense to my life. Society in general and television, in particular, reminds me, I should get what I want. That will make me happy and I deserve to be happy.

Even if it is not a car, for most of us, it is something. Something that, if only I could have this, I would be happy. It may be a car, money, a house, or something completely different (I have talked before about my love of guitars, they fit here too). Whatever it is, we believe they will make us happy. Then, once we have them, it isn’t long before the new wears off and we either regret the decision or we want something else new, something else that will make us happy.

Judas choose the money he thought would make him happy. As we will soon see, that money did nothing to make one Judas Iscariot a happy man. Think about people who have more than they could use in a lifetime. For many, like Judas, they still aren’t happy and they still are not fulfilled. That is because, money or stuff, will never make us truly happy or fulfilled. We have to find that fulfillment in some other place. We find it in living out the will of God.

Where do you find happiness and fulfillment?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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