Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beautiful Extravagance

Within our sensibilities, we know that extravagance is wrong. That's why there was a public outrage when the a scoop came out that the President with other government officials spent around $20,000 for a single dinner at Le Cirque, a luxurious French Restaurant in New York

I think I am even more sensitive to extravagance because I live in Region 1 -- the Ilocos Region. (Alam naman ninyong may reputasyon tayo dito bilang mga kuripot pagdating sa gastusan). But I must go with historian Teodoro Agoncillo that Ilocanos just earn their money the hard way so they hate spending it. So I think even non-Ilocanos who earn their money the hard way can sympathize with me when I say that I don't understand people who spend fortunes collecting stuff such as shoes, bags or Barbie dolls.

In the Bible, extravagance is usually presented as an ugly thing. God requires the king not to acquire for himself a great number of horses or to accumulate large amounts of silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). And in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, the rich man who went to Hades at death wore expensive clothes of purple and linen and spent lavishly for daily feasting (Luke 16:19).

What has drawn me to this text is because there is an unusual twist here: Extravagance is called a beautiful thing. Caring for the poor is even seen as a lesser priority compared this type of extravagance.

The event took place less than a week before the crucifixion. A dinner was held in the house of Simon- a man who recovered from leprosy. A controversy arose because a woman approached Jesus with an alabaster flask of expensive perfume (probably imported because it is native to India). From Mark's account, we know that it is worth a year's wages.

The woman broke the thin neck of the bottle and she poured it's contents on Jesus' head. It's volume is considerable because it flowed to cover Jesus' body also.

Matthew records: "When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor"  (Matthew 26:8-9).

Jesus answered: ""Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial."

There are any other things that could be pointed out in this account like the significance of the perfume in Jesus' coming burial (verse 12) and the promise that her story will be remembered wherever the gospel is proclaimed. But I will just focus on one aspect.

This type of extravagance was commended because it was not done to feed the ego or satisfy the flesh. It was done out of devotion to Jesus. An extravagance that recognizes the greatness of our Lord is beautiful. He deserves our all. He deserves our best. Anyway, he owns all things and all these things were created by him and for him (Psalm 24:1; Col. 1:16). Nothing we possess is too costly to be disposed for his sake.

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