I don’t think I’m unique, though. Some of the thriftiest people I know are Christians. And unfortunately, sometimes our thriftiness can evolve into stinginess.
That’s in pretty stark contrast to the Jesus of our gospels – especially the gospel of John. Jesus appears to embrace and endorse extravagance. Before his ministry has even launched, Jesus attends a wedding in the town of Cana. Weddings were a big deal in the ancient Middle East. “Receptions” went on for days. At this one, they ran out of wine. At his mother’s request, Jesus turns water into wine. [i] But not just any wine; this wine is of impeccable quality. “Why?” I wonder. By then, the guests were pretty liquored up; likely, a little tipsy and undiscerning of the quality. Later on, Jesus is on a mountain with his disciples and 5,000 of his most adoring (and needy) fans.[ii] Jesus decides to feed them all with resources that amount to nothing more than two fish and five loaves of bread. It’s a miracle; but here’s the strange part: Jesus tells his disciples to collect the left overs and they fill twelve baskets! Why such excess? I’ve eaten leftover fish (refer to my first paragraph!) and it’s nothing to get excited about. Then there’s the story of Mary anointing Jesus.[iii] She anoints Jesus’ feet with some ointment made of pure spikenard. She uses an entire pound of the stuff and its value is the equivalent to a year’s salary for a 1st century Palestinian peasant. One website I checked listed the current average blue collar annual compensation in America as $32,000. Can you imagine dumping $32,000 out on someone’s feet!
Now I don’t mean to imply that Jesus condones waste for waste’s sake. But sometimes I wonder if our “thriftiness” isn’t really about fear… the fear of running out of something. Out of fear, sometimes we stockpile; we squirrel things away for a rainy day that might not ever come and we invest more in the dreadful future our imaginations construct than we invest in our present reality.
But the Jesus of John’s gospel appears to have lived with a constant awareness of abundance. The introduction to John’s gospel tells us that “From Jesus’ fullness [or abundance] we have all received grace [layered] upon grace.”[iv] What a beautiful image. We don’t need to be anxious; don’t need to ever worry about running out or falling short. Jesus came to offer us the abundance of God’s grace.
Today, show you love in an extravagant way to someone in your life. Reveal through your living and giving that you trust in the abundance of God’s grace.
[i] John 2:1-11
[ii] John 6:1-14
[iii] John 12:1-8
[iv] John 1:16