Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Giving all we have, or an empty jar

We are studying this week an incident of pure and giving love, extravagant love. It's an example of giving all we have, until nothing is left but an empty jar.

If we want to give an offering that honors the Lord, as Mary did, it must be something that is dear to us. In the eyes of the world, it may be unreasonable, but not to us. Read again in John 12:1-3.

Then let's look at another example of an offering that honors God. Here is a passage from II Samuel:

 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

David knew that his offering must cost him something. It must be precious. When Mary brought her offering, it was precious to her.  Commentaries that I looked at noted the alabaster jar and the nard inside it would have cost the equivalent of an entire year's salary in that day. She brought it, and broke it, and poured it upon Jesus. It was beyond what many would have thought to be a "reasonable" gift, but not to Mary.

This study lowered the boom on me when I worked on this . . . do you realize that there are three momentous times that Mary is mentioned in the gospels, and each time she is at our Lord's feet?
Check this out:
          She sat at His feet to hear His word (Luke 10)
          She knelt at His feet in sorrow at her brother's death (John 11)
          She brings her offering now (John 12)
Is there a better place to be found, that at Jesus' feet? Perhaps we should ask ourselves, as I have been, if we've been there lately?
Or have we been too busy?
Or are we too proud?
Too self-reliant?
At Jesus' feet was Mary's favorite place to be. She is there in times of sorrow and in times of joy; in times of receiving and of giving; when the sun is shining and also when the storms are threatening.
Because of her love.
The same love that made her do something extravagant like this offering. Yes, the jar and the aromatic oil were expensive, but to her, Jesus was worth so much more.
Can we say the same about ourselves? Have we given to God recently, not because it was expected, but because we wanted to? Wherever this kind of love is in a heart, it bubbles up in a desire to sacrifice.

God-honoring, extravagant love is not only giving what is precious to us, but it is pleasant for others to see.  
The whole house was filled with the fragrance -- not just the room in which they were seated, enjoying the dinner and fellowship. Everyone knew what had been offered. Even those outside would know about her offering.
When we give ourselves fully to Jesus, the "aroma" is powerful. When a church is made up of committed Christians who are ready to give everything they have to Jesus, the "scent" is inviting. That church is appealing to those who are outside its walls, looking in. These are people who hunger for worship, and if they aren't drawn in to the truth, they'll settle for a counterfeit.
God inhabits the praises of His people, and one way to praise Him is to offer ourselves, in an extravagant offering of love.  Just like Mary did, we can offer what is dear to us, and it is pleasant for others to see. When we hear of someone else's sacrifice, it encourages us to do more for Him.
Let's bring our best to Him!

1 comment:

Belinda said...

God has impressed upon me lately my selfishness. I make my own plans for each day, and become resentful if something or someone causes those plans to be changed. I have been so convicted of that.

God has impressed upon me that MY plans are insignificant. What I need to focus on, more than the things I want to do and accomplish, are relationships. The other may give me some pleasure, but the sacrifice of my time and my plans are something that He will honor. And each time I have a "change of plans" I remind myself that this is what God would be pleased with.

I'm trying very hard to be more open to doing things other than what pleases me. That is an offering of sorts. If I have a friend who wants to meet for lunch, I push my plans to try to finish that painting project to the side and nurture that friend. I used to say I had other plans. If I see that my grandson needs to explore the world and experience new things, I push that unfinished quilt away and take him out in the world. I used to procrastinate and just say "someday".

Some might not see this as a sacrifice, or an offering. But since this is what God has put on my heart, I believe it is both. And He will honor it.

It's not always easy, but I find that the more I do it, the easier it becomes. And those unfinished projects, or other plans begin to pale in comparison.

I am reminded of the scripture that says if you do this for the least of these, you do this for Me. And that's how I try to look at it. When I sacrifice my desires for the pleasure of others, I'm doing it for Him. And that makes me happy.

I don't know if this really fits the post, but I felt compelled to say it.