Very rarely do we see extravagance lifted up as a virtue in scripture. Usually moderation is lifted up. Today’s Gospel reading calls for extravagance – well a certain kind – God’s kind.
Mary is anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, wiping them with her hair. Judas Iscariot asks a good question, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Jesus responds with: “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might kept it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Judas Iscariot would be right any other day of the week, but today was different. Today’s choice is extravagance over moderation.
I am reminded of one of our new hymns in our relatively new hymnal, the purple one. There is a wonderful hymn called “Woman In the Night” that walks through all the different women in the gospels who impacted Jesus’ ministry. One verse ends with “loved him with your hair” an obvious reference to Mary who anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume.
Time and time again scripture calls us to live in opposite how the world wants us to live. So often, especially in the midst of our economic woes, the temptation is to look inward, worry only about oneself, and bury one’s treasure. Jesus says no.
We are challenged as Christians to live in opposition to the prevailing winds. When others horde wealth, we are called to give it to the poor. When others want to kill Jesus, we are called to honor him with extravagant gifts. When the temptation is to worry about physical surroundings, we are called to invest our money in spiritual things, build relationships, and focus on people instead of buildings.
This is all very strange. I know. Trust me; I know. I live in the conundrum of right living every day. As someone who has given my life to the church, I find myself pondering these questions every day.
How does God want me to use my money? How should I be using my time? Should I give some money from the pastoral fund to the vagrant sleeping in the bushes, or should I wait and give it to a member who is buried in medical bills?
What I know of scripture is that we are called to live extravagantly, pouring out the life and soul of our lives for the one who poured out his. It is not a question of either/or, but one of both/and. We must live outwardly. Always.