Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reckless Generosity

What happened to his drink, by the way?
I bet you can remember some of the times in your life when you've spilled something; especially if it was something valuable. I can remember where I've been sitting at certain restaurants when I've heard a huge crash caused by a server dropping a tray of food. I can still picture the bits of plates, meats, and veggies go flying across the floor, bouncing off of my shoe. On some such occasions, I can remember customers erupting in sarcastic applause, to add insult to injury.  

A few of my favorite spilling mental images come from infomercials. People trying to open a cabinet, sit on a recliner, or pour a beverage are suddenly pelted by whatever they're handling in ridiculous quantities that can only have been stacked and spring loaded. The advertisers seem to really understand our discomfort with spills. Unless you didn't grow up being taught the "three second rule"--it's nearly Scriptural, isn't it?--once something has been spilled out on the floor, it has lost all value and is functionally "unclean". It is only a mess to be cleared. Spilling makes us uncomfortable because it is needlessly wasteful.

Mark 14 tells the story of a woman who spilled something on purpose. And it wasn't a glass of sweet tea or even a plateful of prime rib. It was an alabaster jar full of expensive perfume; the kind that would have cost as much as a year's income by the disciples' estimation. It would be like taking the money you would need to pay cash for a new car, and using it as kindling to light the fire in your grill, as they saw it. As the woman anointed Jesus with this perfume as a way to honor him, the disciples had only sharp words for her in response. "Why this waste of good perfume?!" Of all the possible ways to use that much money, each of them could have produced a list of things to do with it, not the least of which was helping the poor.

Jesus teaches us a different way of looking at money. To begin with, Christians don't get overly attached to our money or our material possessions, because we believe they belong first to God, and that God is more than capable of giving back to us far more than what we share. For some reason, God insisted that in Israel's calendar, there would be festivals and feasts and times of celebrating the harvest, rather than putting all of the harvest into savings. This must have been partly because of a trust that God would later provide another harvest. Memories made by celebrating God's goodness are not a waste, as God sees them.

Our hope is not in our bank account, nor should be our greatest treasures, because the location of our treasure will determine the deepest cares of our hearts, according to Jesus. Jesus valued the great cost of this gesture the woman made towards him, and when it comes to honoring God, there's something to be said for trying to do things for God that are beautiful, and that mean something to us. On one occasion in 2 Samuel 24, a man named Araunah offered to give David a threshing floor and some oxen so that David could offer a sacrifice to God. David's response? Absolutely not.
"No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."
David's view? Worship isn't worship if it doesn't cost me anything. While there is no precedent to be needlessly wasteful in how we use our possessions, there is certainly precedent to do things that are beautiful, and even attention grabbing to honor God. It is appropriate that some of the world's greatest paintings, artful compositions, and charitable organizations exist because of people's desire to do something beautiful for God. Something worth remembering. Sometimes a few acts of random kindness and reckless generosity are just the things we need to remind ourselves that our trust is in God's provisions, and not in our possessions.

No comments:

Post a Comment