Today I’ve been meditating on Mark 14:1-11, the account of the anointing of Jesus by a woman at the house of Simon the leper at Bethany, an account which Jesus tells us will be recounted wherever the gospel is preached.
Whenever I read this account, I am challenged. It’s a story of reckless extravagance. ‘Reckless’ is defined as ‘without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action’ or ‘heedless’ or ‘careless’. I don’t think the woman cared about her reputation or about what others thought of her actions. She just wanted to do something for Jesus because He had done so much for her. I am not sure recklessness fits into my personality traits and so I am threatened by it.
‘Extravagance‘ is defined as ‘lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources’ or ‘unrestrained excess’. Apart from perhaps at Christmas, when we allow ourselves the indulgence of being ‘extravagant’, it’s not usually something in our Western society which is applauded. If you’ve been brought up on the Protestant work ethic or are frugal by nature, extravagance is something which seems inherently sinful!
But Jesus unequivocally commends this woman’s actions. The disciples and others condemned her, criticising and rebuking her harshly: ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ (Mark 14:4-5) They may well have been speaking reaonably – and how we like to appear reasonable and rational, justifying our actions with careful words and sensible suggestions! But Jesus was not offended by reckless extravagance in the way that we are. ‘She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.’ (Mark 14:8)
Part of me wonders what happened to the gifts brought by the Wise Men, which also included myrrh. Part of me is afraid of what reckless extravagance looks like today, in my own life. How do I show my devotion for God? What does He mean to me? How can I demonstrate that with my daily living? Do I do what I can or do I live with a safety net reassuringly underneath me? Do I tithe because it leaves me with more than I give? What does reckless extravagance look like in 2012? What will it look like in 2013?
Do I care more for my repuation and what others think of me than what Jesus thinks of me? Do I hold on to what I have, afraid to lose it, or am I willing to let go and find that Jesus gives so much more than I could ever hold on to in my own strength? I don’t think the woman regretted her reckless extravagance. She did what she could. And wherever the gospel is preached, she challenges us to do the same: to love extravagantly, without counting the cost, without holding on to anything.