Posted by: mikebackup | March 16, 2013

Extravagant generosity

John 12:1-8

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Being extravagant

There are a number of challenges with this apparently simple story. Let’s start with giving and the realisation that we’re called to be extravagant for Jesus. Too often we can be too clinical in our thinking like Judas, not happy to see an in the moment act of extravagent generosity. But this goes beyond being genrous in a given moment and should permeate our entire lives. To get to that point may take a while but a good place to start is to be like the tax collector in Luke 18.

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We need to humble ourselves before God and then we can take on ways of living like this from the ‘Way of life of the community of Aiden and Hilda’ to well-known Celtic Christians.

We wish to “live simply that others may simply live,” to avoid any sense of judging one another; and God will make different demands of each of us. Our common responsibility is to regularly hold before God our income, our savings, our possessions, conscious that we are stewards, not possessors of these things, and making them available to him as he requires. A simple lifestyle means setting everything in the simple beauty of creation. Our belongings, activities and relationships are ordered in a way that liberates the spirit; we cut out those things that overload or clutter the spirit. We are not seeking a life of denial, for we thoroughly rejoice in the good things God gives us. Our clothes and furniture should reflect God-given features of our personalities. There is a time to feast and celebrate as well as to fast. Our commitment is to openness. We stand against the influence of the god of mammon in our society by our lifestyle, by our hospitality, by our intercession, and by regular and generous giving.

When we put God the boss of our wallet, activites and relationships it’s then possible to give generously in beautifually simple but profound ways. Some of these ways have been explored through the 40 Atcts Lent reflections and I’ve got some of them to share.

Say thank you‏

Paul said ‘I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.’
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

Living with lots of criticism and no thanks can harden people, but appreciation of the smallest things can make a person feel cherished and worthwhile. Whoever we are, and whatever we have accomplished, someone helped to get us there. And no one should ever underestimate our power to influence others for good, simply by saying, “Thank you”. Or as Paul would say, “I thank my God for you.”

Who do you need to thank God for and thank others for today?

Smile

‘Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The human brain is automatically wired to be more attracted to smiling faces, and there’s a reason for it – smiles are brilliant. They also boost your immune system. And doesn’t it make your morning commute or your supermarket shop that bit nicer if someone smiles and genuinely says ‘good morning!’ or ‘have a nice day’? You never know who might be in need of a kind smile today.

What have I got to smile about?  Most of us, when asked that question, even on a grumpy, grey Monday morning, can come up with a few reasons. On such days it really can help to count your blessings.

A really good idea is to set aside a Grateful Jar: an old washed-out jam jar that sits next to your bed, with a pack of sticky notes and a biro nearby. At the end of each day make a note of anything good that has happened that day and pop it in the jar. It can be anything at all, from unexpectedly bumping into a friend at lunch to finally booking that longed-for weekend away. When you need to smile, dip into the jar and remind yourself of what you’ve been grateful for

A  smile is not a personal treasure – it’s made to be given away. The Bible urges us to encourage one another and build each other up and we all know that, like a yawn, a smile can be infectious – what simpler way to encourage someone?

Encourage

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ Galatians 6:9

“Gertrude, your geraniums are looking spectacular.”
“That new orange Mohican hairstyle really brings out the colour of your eyes, Roger.”
“Double chocolate chip brownies should NOT taste this good, Chris.”

Compliments and encouragements are so easy to say, yet so under-used. Make someone’s day brighter with some kind words.

1. Encouraging others with small acts can make a big difference to your day.
2. You get blessed in giving, at least as much as the recipient.
3. Small acts of kindness add up – and others are encouraged to do them too.
4. You need to be intentional – determine to do one or two a day, or you’ll forget.

Surprise someone

The theme for this week is all about making someone’s day. What better way to do that than to surprise them? Little gestures are often just as treasured as big ones, so don’t feel under pressure to do something beyond your means. Creativity, thoughtfulness and timing are everything.

So that’s the giving side, what we can take from Mary’s action. Let’s look at Jesus now and two big challenges. Note how Jesus accepts what is being done and is quick to rebuke Judas. He saw how Mary wanted to bless him and even though it was a massively expensive act he accepted it completely. Many Christians find being given something and just accepting with a grateful heart very hard. They want to return the favour or say no. If that’s you try and go forward and just accept a blessing at the point of it being given. We mustn’t reject a blessing, it’s hurtful nor should we try and match it, that’s hurtful too. We may sometimes afterwards decide to pass the blessing on ourselves if we know it isn’t for us, but don’t do that at the time. Just say ‘thank you’. The final challenge is one I know many will find really hard, but we all need to do  sometimes and that’s to remind people of who you are and what you’ve done. You see Jesus do this in verse 8 – You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” We sometimes we really need a thank you off someone and it might need encouragement to get it. Some people think they don’t need to say it or it’s obvious. They are thankful, but don’t say it. That’s not always good enough and sometimes the words need to be said and heard. We’re not afraid to ask for the bill at a restaurant or directions if lost. Let’s not be afraid to ask for thanks when we need to hear an acknowledgement. Many relationships have been terribly damaged or broken because that wasn’t done. It’s not asked out of any vain glory, just so that we have some energy to continue on.

This is great clip that explains more:

To recap, we need to give and receive. Humble yourself and put God in charge of everything. We are then able to give all the time and often in simple ways, like saying thank you, like smiling,  being encouraging and giving the odd surprise. When we do these things we may also be on the receiving end of a generous blessing – accept them gratefully and say thank you. On occasion though we need to remind people of the blessing we give and to prompt a generous word of thanks. It not only helps us, it will help the other person know that saying thank you is important.

Being extravagent and generous is at the heart of God and so it needs to be part of our heart too.


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