Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Extravagance

What do you think of when you hear the word Extravagance? Do you hear it in a negative or a positive way?


I think of the Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Jif peanut butter that we topped our waffles with this morning. Two luxury food items that came in an early Christmas package from sweet friends. I remember the way the peanut butter slid easily out of the jar on the knife and the way the chocolate syrup drizzled out of the bottle. Many eyes watching around the table. Like hawks. “Stop!” “That’s too much!” Use sparingly. Don’t waste it.

I wondered outloud, “What would it be like if instead of trying to stop each other from using too much, we said, ‘I don’t think you got enough chocolate syrup on your waffles. You ought to put some more peanut butter on too.’ What if we encouraged extravagance?”

My family laughed at me. Knowing it would never happen.

If our family had been in the home of Simon the Leper when the woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, I’m sure we would have contributed to the complaints against her. Why this waste? Think of all that the money could have been used for instead.

But Jesus praised her for her extravagant worship. Though she didn’t know the significance of what she had done, Jesus said she had done a beautiful thing by preparing him for his burial. Her story would be told as the gospel spread throughout the world. (Matthew 26:6-12)

When Jesus said He came so that we could have life to the full (John 10:10), I believe the idea of extravagance is in there. He wants us to experience all that He has for us. Not to be content with a mere spoonful of water at the ocean’s edge. “Jump in,” He invites us. There’s so much more to life in Me.

By life to the full, Jesus didn’t mean “living it up” in a wasteful lifestyle like the Prodigal Son who “squandered his wealth in wild living.” (Luke 15:13)

He meant that we could welcome home extravagantly like his father, who ran out to meet this wayward son and said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feel. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” (Luke 15: 22-23)

Because the father was able to forgive extravagantly, like the master who mercifully forgave his servant a huge debt that he couldn’t pay (Matthew 18:23-27) And like Jesus who prayed for those who had nailed him to the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

We can also give extravagantly like the poor widow who put two small coins in the temple treasury. It was all she had. (Luke 21:3) And like the Macedonians of whom Paul said, “out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity...they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their own ability.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3)

Jesus wants us to bless extravagantly, as He once told his Pharisee host: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:12-14)

And to thank God extravagantly, like the one leper out of ten, who “when he saw that he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” (Luke 17:15-16)

We can repent extravagantly, like Zacchaeus who was transformed from a dishonest tax collector to a generous follower of Jesus who said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

And love extravagantly, like the Good Samaritan who stopped to care for a wounded stranger: bandaging his wounds, taking him to safety on his donkey and paying an innkeeper to look after him. (Luke 10: 30-35)

Jesus enables us to live life to the full, in His extravagance because “from the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16)

From the fullness of God’s grace, we can extravagantly worship Him, welcome home those who have wronged us, forgive them, give beyond our ability, bless the needy, thank God, repent of our past and love our neighbors as ourselves. From the overflow of His immeasurable love within us.

May Jesus live extravagantly through us this Christmas season.



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