Hi, and welcome to another In Touch video. I’m JP Willis II, the vice president for education here at the Southern California Conference.
It has an appealing ring to it: extravagant giver. The word extravagant, however, is a bit tricky.
One of our strategic objectives as servants to our constituents is to develop in our members the desire and capacity to become extravagant givers. It has an appealing ring to it: extravagant giver. The word extravagant, however, is a bit tricky. Most definitions of this word appear to use negative descriptors: doing something that exceeds the limits of reason or necessity; lacking moderation and balance; being excessive and extreme; spending much more than necessary.
For a few moments, I want to share what God’s Word says about an extravagant giver—one who fits quite well the descriptors of the word extravagant but flips it to a positive, not a negative.
In Luke, chapter 7, starting with verse 36, we read that a Pharisee asked Jesus to visit his home and eat with him. Jesus accepted the invitation. Verse 37 says, “And behold, a woman in the city who WAS a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil…stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (verse 38).
Talk about extravagant. Isn’t her behavior a bit extreme, excessive, unnecessary, apparently expensive, and publicly disturbing? Several who were witnesses of the act recoiled with disgust and even openly criticized her. The disciples were indignant, asking the question, “To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:7-8). Mark described their responses as murmuring against her (Mark 14:4-5). John attributed the following words to Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus: “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” John’s follow-up to what Judas said is that Judas didn’t care for the poor. He was a thief and just wanted the money for himself since he served as treasurer to the band of disciples and Jesus (John 12:5-6). But in Luke’s account, he said the Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat thought to himself that if Jesus was a true prophet, He “would have known who and what manner of woman this is that [is touching] Him: for she IS a sinner” (Luke 7:39).
It was because of this Jesus that we find her at His feet washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with fragrant oil.
There is a big difference in how Luke described this woman in verse 37 compared to what the Pharisee thought of her in verse 39. In verse 37 Luke wrote, “behold, a woman who WAS a sinner.” The Pharisee thought to himself in verse 39, “she IS a sinner.”
Ellen White, in her book The Desire of Ages, chapter 62, identifies this woman as being Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. She was known to the community of believers by her reputation, by her past. She was the one who engaged in unseemly behaviors. She was the one caught in adultery, whom the Pharisees wanted to publicly stone (John 11:2). It is alluded to that the Pharisee in this story, who was named Simon, was instrumental in leading her into that kind of life. She was known to have become a vessel of demonic forces in her life, seven to be exact. But then she met Jesus. He is the one who forgave her sins when she was brought before Him to be stoned. He was the one whose teaching was so appealing to her that she was often found in His presence, sitting at His feet absorbing as much of His words as she possibly could. He is the one whom she heard pray seven times “His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. She had heard His strong cries to the Father in her behalf” (p. 568). It was Jesus “who had lifted her from despair and ruin” (p. 568). It was because of this Jesus that we find her at His feet washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with fragrant oil. Extravagant! No longer doomed, rejected, discarded, and considered worthless. Instead, she is now a believer that her sins are forgiven, she is redeemed, valued, uplifted, and loved. Mary cannot help but be extravagant in giving honor, worship, and praise to Jesus.
In what ways can you become an extravagant giver to Jesus?
In what ways can you become an extravagant giver to Jesus? You can be extravagant by giving Him your obedience, faithfulness, worship, praise, witness, and resources. Some may look on you as one who exceeds the limits of reason or necessity; lacking moderation and balance; being excessive and extreme; spending resources that are much more than necessary. But you, like Mary, recognize how extravagant God is and has been toward you. “In giving up His Son, He has poured out to us all of heaven in one gift” (Steps to Christ, p. 21).
In conclusion, let me share this last passage of scripture with you. 1 John 3:1-2, says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!...Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Extravagant givers know who they are and whose they are. I challenge you to ask God for the capacity and strength to match your means of extravagance to His extravagance.