When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated. For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.
Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world. This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.
Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.
When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home, a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.
Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.
If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have” product this year. People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.
How about this year you give not the “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love but it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek for forgiveness. Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.
Perhaps God has placed someone in our life who is longing to belong. They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.
Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building” but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.
Questions for reflection:
Where have you experienced extravagant giving?
Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?
What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?
As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.