When Christians should be extravagant

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When Christians should be extravagant

February 16, 2023 -

A stained glass window depicts Mary at Jesus' feet in an extravagant act of worship while the busy Martha looks on. © By Dario Ricardo/stock.adobe.com

A stained glass window depicts Mary at Jesus' feet in an extravagant act of worship while the busy Martha looks on. © By Dario Ricardo/stock.adobe.com

A stained glass window depicts Mary at Jesus' feet in an extravagant act of worship while the busy Martha looks on. © By Dario Ricardo/stock.adobe.com

Maybe, like me, you have seen the billboards and TV ads about Jesus with the tagline “He Gets Us.”

By nature, I am always a little wary of messages like this. Everyone from Mormons to Muslims has a place for “Jesus” in their theology—though often not the Jesus of the New Testament.

He Gets Us, while unique in approach, appears solid scripturally. But, when I found out that they spent $20 million for two Super Bowl ads this year, my right eyebrow shot into a “Say whaaaat?” position.

Isn’t that a bit extravagant?

Bluntly, yes, it is.

But does that mean it’s necessarily a bad thing?

Does extravagance have any place in Christian living and theology?

The extravagance of Mary’s offering

Remember, Mary (Martha and Lazarus’ sister) poured expensive nard on Jesus’ feet at a dinner given in his honor (John 12:1–8). A lot of it.

That extravagance did not go unnoticed. Judas objected greatly, piously saying the nard could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Within seven days, this same Judas would betray Jesus, the most valuable balm of humankind, for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Why did Mary do what she did? Is it ever okay to be extravagant? Isn’t it all about sacrifice, simplicity . . . even poverty?

This leads to three important questions.

Is extravagance ever justifiable?

The answer is simple.

Because it’s a question of “for whom” and “for whose glory,” Jesus justified Mary’s act (see John 12:7–8). We either glorify ourselves or God with our lives and actions. Spent on ourselves, extravagance becomes indulgence and greed. So, ask, is the object and purpose of the extravagant gift worthy?

Jesus certainly was (as still is).

Extravagance can be seen in Jesus’ miracles. He turned water into wine—not the cheap stuff, but fine wine. In feeding the five thousand, not only was everyone fed, but twelve basket loads of extra food were gathered up. Did he miscalculate the amount needed?

No, in both cases he was bringing glory to God by going extravagantly beyond expectations.

When is it okay to be extravagant?

If the “gift” is quid pro quo, it’s not really a gift. It’s a bribe. You’ve made the act about your own needs/purpose.

Mary and Martha might have purchased the nard earlier for the purpose of anointing their dead brother’s body. But, by raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus put an end to that need. The extravagance of Lazarus’ resurrection certainly justified Mary’s extravagant response of gratefulness.

So, maybe Mary and Martha understood what would happen in the coming week and that using the nard now rather than at Jesus’ burial seemed more generous. While the twelve disciples didn’t seem to fully grasp the upcoming events, perhaps the sisters did, and Mary chose to lavish their gratefulness on Jesus while he lived.

God-honoring extravagance is rarely out of place, even though others may not always agree or understand. The cross was extravagant, although painful and not always easily accepted.

Again, Jesus affirmed Mary’s act of extravagance. He also countered the objections.

With what can you be extravagant?

If it’s only money or valuables, what if you have little, or even none?

Even if your bank account is near empty, you are endowed with valuable gifts to give.

  • Unmerited forgiveness can often be extravagant and change lives.
  • Generous (truthful) words of kindness and gratefulness make a huge difference on those upon whom you lavish it.
  • Just being present at significant or difficult moments is an act of extravagance.
  • Being generous with any of the fruit of the Spirit is an incredible gift.

In Acts, Peter said to the lame beggar, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts 3:6). Then he healed the man. Amazingly extravagant.

Isn’t the God who created us in his image, lavished us with this incredible creation, and showers us with mercy and grace worthy of extravagant praise and worship?

And remember that you are God’s most extravagant creation.

The God who created the majestic Grand Canyon, breathtaking sunsets, delicious food, and beautiful music considers you the ultimate creation. Only you are said to be created in his image.

Nothing else in creation has that distinction.

He gets us.

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