Friday, January 28, 2011

Week 1 - A Generous Vulnerability

While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mark 14:3-9

From the world’s perspective, giving is fun and attractive; it can make us feel powerful and smart and special. If we’re in a position to add zeroes to a donation check, it means we are somebody. And if we can’t – well, we probably don’t matter much.

Too often, generosity is an act of measuring the power of the self by the volume of the gift rather than an act affirming the significance of the other to the point of our own vulnerability. We can misuse the needs of others to make ourselves feel in control and superior – financially and spiritually. Jesus reveals that this attitude is equally as sinful as those who fail to give anything at all. This, too, is greed; it is a lust for importance, an attempt to purchase the significance that only Love can offer.

And so, it is fitting that we are never told her name - this woman who broke her jar. Some scholars hypothesize that she was the daughter of Simon the Leper, the host of the party; some say she was just a party crasher. But in the moment of her choice to give God all she had, her life ceased being about herself. She became known and forever would be remembered as being a lover of God. How she gave what she had was the lesson: she was not validating herself; she was crowing Another as worthy.

For His glory and for our joy, God invites us into the incredible experience that He lives all of the time – a moment of looking into the eyes of another and saying, “You are loveable; you are loved.” Giving – of time, talent and treasure – is what takes us there and involves us tangibly in the redeeming work of Love.

The Real Question: From what place in my heart do I give – from the desire to be important, or from the desire to make others more important than myself?

Family Talk: How does it make you feel to know you have helped someone who really needed help?

ONE in Prayer: God of All, You are the First Giver of all that is good, holy, whole…all that is truly love. Form me into Your image so that I also might give in love and share Your heart with the world You desire to redeem. Amen.

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