Lent is a time when we think about giving things up, not living extravagantly. If we pay attention to Jesus’ teaching, we know that money is a gift to be shared.
But then there is this story in John 12:1-9. Mary, the sister of Lazarus (the man Jesus raised from the dead), brings an exorbitantly priced perfume and pours it out on Jesus’ feet. Judas complains. This should have been spent on the poor, he said. We sort of agree with him. Jesus’ response? “You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.” What? That doesn’t really sound like Jesus.
He’s quoting from Deuteronomy 15. “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you: Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” Not exactly a condemnation of helping the poor, is it?
In Lent we remember the giving of God’s own self for us. The absolute extravagance of that love is often humbling.
A woman brings an expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet in thanks for what he’d done for her family. The absolute extravagance of her gratitude is inspiring.
A stranger is hungry or thirsty, in need of shelter or clothing. “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor,” says God.
The poor you always have with you. Show them the same extravagant love you have just seen Mary express toward me, says Jesus.
Extravagance is the spiritual practice of doing something wild and amazing—even unexpected. It is how we express how God moves among us.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010