Monday, September 15, 2014

Extravagant Generosity

Extravagance, noun. Lack of restraint. Excessive elaborateness. From the Latin meaning "diverging greatly."

When we hear the words "extravagant generosity", most people immediately  probably think of money, and that's certainly involved here, but "extravagant generosity" refers to more than money. It refers to our talents and abilities. It refers to our time. It refers to our resources. And it refers to our money. Extravagant generosity calls us to look at how we use what we have.

Our calling to extravagance comes from the example and life of Jesus himself, who gave everything that he had for our sake. Jesus came from heaven, lived a perfect life, and then gave his life on the cross in order to save us from our sins. Now, we may want to debate how that happened or why he had to die—but that's not the point right now. The point is he gave absolutely everything he had to give. He gave his very life—there is nothing more extravagant than that. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:3). More extravagant love has no one than to give what they have for the sake of others.

Many a pastor's favorite story of extravagance is found in Exodus 36, where preparations are being made for building the Tabernacle and the call goes out for the people to donate what they have to build this place of worship. And the people respond—too well. In fact, Moses has to tell them to stop bringing stuff because they had too much. The people, Exodus says, had to be "restrained" from bringing more. Wouldn't we love to see that happen in our time—where we had to ask people to stop giving what they have because the mission was already accomplished? That would be a great problem to have! Unfortunately, we're far from that. The average Christian today gives about 2% of their income toward God's work. We have a ways to go toward become extravagantly generous.

Maybe the question is really bigger than our giving. Maybe the question has to do with what's important to us. Remember this word has its root in the idea of "diverging greatly," which to me means that our priorities, as Christian people, are quite different than the priorities of the world. We place a high priority on the mission God has called us to. Which begs the question: is the mission of the church really that important? Is it worth giving what we have in order to see it accomplished?

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