Extravagant Giving

Scripture: Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-8
Date: 01/15/2005 
Extravagant giving to God was demonstrated in the Bible when Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Her act demonstrates for us the generosity and love we should show toward God.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

The message this morning, I have titled Extravagant Giving. Some of what precipitates that; let me share a little bit. When our steering committee, connected with our stewardship program, when we got together last Sunday, and we spent some time in prayer and talking, and there were some testimonies. And Elder Hubbard [?] Challenged us. He said, “You’re the leaders and you really need to set the example for giving.” When you think about building a new church in the capital of California, it just makes the blood drain from your face. Not just because of all the red tape of doing anything in California, but the expense involved. And I have just been struggling in my own soul. And the Lord keeps opening the doors and I keep saying, “Lord, is this really what you want us to do? How are we ever going to reach the goal?”

Now we haven't fixed the goal yet of what were going to need to raise. This campaign, we're looking for pledges in the next three months, will be over a three-year period to help with the relocation process. We're going to be here for a while and we know it takes some time, but you've got to think ahead for anything great like this. The goal is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 4.5 million dollars. And I think about that and I just say, “Lord, I'm glad this is your work because I don't know how.”

Last Sunday when this group, couldn't have been more than 40, maybe 50 people, gathered in the Camellia Room. At the end of that meeting there were $600,000 in pledges. Can you say praise God? And I got excited. I thought, “Maybe we can do it.” And it was really inspiring. But you know, I grapple with. You know, I travel all over the world. We've been out in the jungle. Just as last fall, Karen and I and the boys were in New Guinea, and preached out on the street under a tent; plywood platform. Some of these places in the world, that's their church. Sometimes it's just a thatched roof. Sometimes they don't have that. And you think about the money that we might spend on a facility in North America and I go, “Wow! That's extravagant.”

Now when I say the word extravagant, does that conjure up good thoughts or lavish thoughts of being frivolous and misspent funds? Usually, if your husband says the word extravagant, what does that mean? It means you spent too much. We don't really need that. But that's because usually when we say the word extravagant we’re thinking about spending lavishly on ourselves. Let's look at a definition. What does the word extravagant mean? I looked in the dictionary, and there's quite a bit there, but some of it could be summed up in, “extremely, abundant, profuse, exorbitant, boundless.” And that's not so bad, is it?

You think about extravagant gifts. And I started looking at some of the stories that I saw in history of extravagant gifts that were given. One that popped into my mind because I used it once as an amazing fact was the Taj Mahal in India. It took 17 years and 20,000 people to build this beautiful building, and you know what it is? Nobody lives there. It's a tomb. But back in the 1700’s in India an extremely wealthy Lord, I don't know what his official title was, built this for his wife whom he loved very much. 20,000 men, 17 years, to build a tombstone. Is that extravagant?

A little amazing fact, the British were going to tear down the Taj Mahal in the 1800’s. They had actually brought demolition equipment to the site and were just about to demolishing it to sell the marble. And word managed to reach the site just before they started tearing the building down that said, “We’ve canceled the demolition because the price of marble has dropped so low that it is no longer worth while.” And they were going to tear down one and of the Seven Wonders of the World. A lot of people all over the world are thankful today that that was built because it is such a beautiful, exquisite example of architecture and symmetry that it's considered one of the wonders of the world. But that would be a little extravagant. Don't do that for my tombstone. I'd rather see you put it in the Lord's work.

Turn, please, to Matthew 26 and we’re going to go back to what we looked at in our scripture reading. And many of us know the story because it appears in all four Gospels. There are only a few things that you would find in all four of the Gospel stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and we're going to read it here from Matthew 26:6. “And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, and they said, “To what purpose was this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor. And when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, Why do you trouble, the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not always have. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, that wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” The Lord was blessing her for what she did.

Well, what did Mary do? Now you realize that, of course it's in all four Gospels. Matter of fact, why don't we jump over and look at John 12, real quick. Each of the writers gives us a little different insight into the experience. In John chapter 12:1, “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those, who sat at the table with Him.” Now first of all, do we know who the woman is now? “Then Mary took a pound,” what Mary is this? Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, same Mary. “Mary took a pound of very,” it tells us the weight, “very costly oil of spikenard, and she anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.” Wait a second, Matthews said anointed His head. She did both. “Anointed His feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot.” Now in Matthew it says the disciples complained. Was the instigator? “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and he had the money box; and used to take what was put in it. Then Jesus said, Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not always have.”

And then again, you can find at the account, and I won't read the full account, and Mark 14:3. “Being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper.” Simon, the Pharisee, had been a leper, whom Jesus healed of leprosy and he had this feast in Bethany to thank Him, evidently. “Being in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious. And she broke the box and poured it on His head.” And again, you can read in Luke 7:37, “And behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she knew the Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house,” that’s Simon's house, “brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.” The word box and flask comes from the same word. It just means container. “And stood at His feet behind Him weeping; she began to wash his speech with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; she kissed His feet, and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”

So you can see that all four Gospels give attention to this, just as they do also to the crucifixion, the betrayal, the resurrection. It's a very important story, what this woman did, what Mary did for Jesus. She gave is very lavish, extravagant gift that was ridiculed in more ways than one by those at the dinner, but Jesus praised her for what she did, and He was encouraged. It brought him joy. Now, we're going to look point by point at what's happening here.

First of all, why did Mary do it? Why did she spend this very expensive, large amount of money to buy this gift that was really a gift for kings? Well, Jesus tells us. In Matthew 26:12 He says, “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.” Why is that? If you read just prior to this story in Matthew, Jesus is walking down the road, He’s telling His disciples, “I am going to Jerusalem. I will be betrayed. I will be crucified. I'm going to die. I'll be buried and I'll rise the third day.” He said that so many times that even His enemies picked up on it, but evidently the disciples, it didn't register with them, except for one disciple.

Who was the one disciple that keyed in on what He was saying? Mary. You read in Luke 8, “There were certain women that followed Him,” and it lists them. And it says one of them was “Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven devils.” Marry heard Jesus say, “I'm going to die,” and you know, she believed it. You know, why? I think Mary was that woman that was caught in the act of adultery that was brought to the temple, and He said, “I'm going to let you go free.” And the only way that He could do that, because she was guilty, is by taking her place. She was condemned to die. She knew He was going to die. Now most of us, we wait until a person expires before we give them any flowers. Hopefully, you don't wait that if it's your wife. Another reason she did it, is not only for his burial, but it said that “in pouring this fragrant oil on My body” she anointed him. Oil was used for anointing.

Now, how important was this? What was anointing done for? I think about Psalms 133:1-2. It says, “Behold, how could an pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron,” the high priest, “running down on the edge of his garments.” When Aaron was anointed as the high priest the oil ran down. It was poured out. It ran down his head. Usually, if we have an anointing service because someone is sick we recognize this as a symbol and you don't want to just dump a whole quart of olive oil on somebody. And so, because it's a symbol we take a little bit on our fingers, we just touch it to their head, and we have prayer. And I think that's sufficient. But when they used to anoint people in Bible times they would take a whole flask of oil. And it's running down his beard and on his garments. They doused them in this oil, the high priest.

Oil was used in Bible times; it was very sacred. It's a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It was used for healing. Do you remember when the man felt among thieves in the parable of the Good Samaritan? It says he poured in oil and wine. They used oil for light; kept their lamps burning. The foolish virgins ran out of oil. They use it for cooking. It was in their bread. They use it for beauty. They would be anointed, you read in Song of Solomon, to improve their appearance. Their hands and their faces would get dry in that desert climate. And it was used for heat. They'd use it to start their fires. So the oil is used for light, for heat, for food, for beauty, for healing. It's a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Now she takes this oil that's not just any oil. This is an extremely expensive oil that is used, and she pours it on Jesus. Mary is a symbol of the church. She washes his feet with her tears. And maybe I should talk about that for a moment. You’ve probably heard me address this, but in Bible times they actually had flasks that you would buy of this primitive glass. And when they were mourning they would catch their tears. And those vials of tears were considered to be a symbol of the sorrow of their life. Especially if they cried for someone they loved that they lost, they'd catch the tears. And you know, we cremate people and they put the ashes on the mantel. They would catch the tears and put them on the mantle. And it remembered the sorrow of losing that loved one. And they actually did capture their tears. There was a little live on the vial and they would catch them.

So when it says Mary washed his feet in her tears, she didn't just try to shake them off her nose onto his feet. You can't really wash with that. Sometimes, someone will say, “I've cried buckets of tears.” But I've never really seen that. But she took her flask of tears and poured it on his feet, and she literally washed his feet in her tears. What does that mean? Christ, before he went to the cross, was anointed by Mary as king. They would anoint kings. King David was anointed. They would anoint the high priest. He was anointed as priest. Lambs God anointed. Do you remember Psalm 23, “Thou annointest my head with oil.” A shepherd would anoint the lambs. He was anointed as our sacrifice, our King, our priest by Mary. The apostles didn't do it. And she washed his feet with her tears, meaning. What do feet represent? Your walk, your experience. That he would bear our sorrows, our sadness. The government tells us, “We feel your pain.” Do you believe that? But when Jesus says, “I know how you feel.” I remember at the Heritage Singers used to sing this song Tears are a Language that God Understands. His feet have been bathed in our tears. So this is just full of meaning. And she gives the beautiful, lavish gift.

Now this vessel, this alabaster flask. And I have looked into this a little bit. It was a form of natural ceramic that was carved from a crystallized lime, and it was white, pure white. This is actually a picture of an old flask that was recovered. This one is damaged. And they would seal the top with a perfume, because this spikenard would come all the way from Nepal. You know how far that was in Bible times to take a product? Have to go all the way across; that's the eastern part of India. Go all the way across India, and through the deserts, and Arabia to make it to the Middle East. And it was a gift for kings, a very lavish gift. And here she buys this gift that is worthy for kings, and she pours it all out. And not only does she pour it out, she breaks the seal. It is broken, it is spilled out, it is emptied on the head of Christ. She is at the back of Jesus’ feet.

They used to sit around these tables when they ate. I think there's even one of the pictures that helps to illustrate this. They ate on these couches with a table in the middle, and their feet were sort of away from where they ate. Keep in mind, in Bible times, they used to wash their feet. You and I wash our hands before we eat, and they probably did that too, but they washed their feet because they used to travel the same roads as the donkeys and the cows and the camels that were not maintained by the city sanitation department. And so you could understand why the feet were as far away from the food as possible when they ate.

And she goes to His feet and washes His feet in her tears. And when she begins to pour the fragrance on His feet, you can't hide it, it says it filled the room. Everybody's talking; all of a sudden they go, “What is that?” And they see what she's doing, making a spectacle. Mary was not afraid to give lavishly, was she? She was not afraid to make her gift publicly. And she wanted others to know how much she loved Jesus. She wasn't afraid to express it in public. I've seen some people who've been Christians for years and when someone else asks them if they are a Christian, “Well, yeah, mumble, mumble.” It's like they are embarrassed. Especially if they say, “And what church do you belong to?” “Oh, I’m a mmmmmhhm.” They're afraid to speak up and tell people what we believe. Don't be ashamed of what you believe. If you are then you believe in the wrong thing. Right? You ought to have this holy confidence about what you believe, if you don't you'd better study and acquire it. Because that's why Paul could say, “I know what I believe. I'm not ashamed of the gospel.”

Mary was not ashamed to express her love for Jesus. So she took this very expensive spikenard, very costly, and the words that are used in the various stories here in the Bible: extremely valuable, exceedingly precious, very costly, and one translation renders it very pure. It wasn't adulterated. The ointment was the purest form. They used to have to melt down and squeeze these drops out of that spikenard plant. And to get a whole vial of ointment made from the liquid required an awful lot of work. And here she pours the whole thing out. One setting. And you could sort of understand why the disciples. I mean, they saw Jesus sleeping on the ground as He traveled. To give the gift of a king on this itinerant preacher that doesn't even have a house, well, you could use that to get favor with Herod, or Pilate or somebody. That's the kind of gift you give to Caesar. And here they gave it to the Carpenter. Was that extravagant? Yes. Was it? Yes. Was that a bad thing to do? No. It was a good thing to do.

Let's face it, the value of the gift is sometimes measured according to who is going to receive the gift. I talked to some parents that are here, I won't identify them, and they said, “This year for Christmas we didn't give our children anything. We knew they'd get lots from the relatives and they have a tendency to just not appreciate it.” You know, I respect that and I kind of thought maybe we should try that. Because you can give them so much they take everything for granted. And then, as you are picking gifts. This is not any kind of endorsement that you have to give gifts during the holidays, but let's face it, most people do. Based on the credit card statements. If you're going to give gifts, let's be honest. Do you give the same value gift to your spouse that you give to your second cousin of your uncle's nephew? I hope not.

Matter of fact, I looked at a survey, dear, and you'll be happy to know that the most expensive gifts are given to spouses. Usually husbands are the recipients. I read somewhere that the average man can do all of his holiday shopping in 45 minutes. At 7-Eleven. But the gift is going to be in proportion to whom you're giving it to, right? If you're going to get a gift to a king, is it going to be the same kind of gift that you might give to some distant relative, because you're showing up? No. I was also reading that President Bush receives very lavish gifts. All of the president's do, but it was just in the paper recently. One of the Abdullah’s of Saudi Arabia gave President and Mrs. Bush $180,000 in jewels in a clock. He'll probably leave it at the White House. Not that every president has done that. One of the most interesting gifts he got recently was the president of Argentina gave him $1500 of raw lamb. He gets some interesting gifts.

Expensive gifts are given to Kings. When Jesus was born, what did they bring? Matthew 2:11, “When they opened their treasurers,” what kind of gifts were these? It was considered a treasure. Come on now, how many of you give a baby gold? Is that extravagant? Yes. Did they do the right thing? Yes, they did. “And when they opened their treasurers, they presented gifts to Him: Gold, frankincense, myrrh.” These are gifts for royalty. It makes me think of, in the Old Testament, the story of the Queen of Sheba. I Kings 10:1, “Now when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, with very much gold, with precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.” You know, the Bible tells about how a gift prepares the way before kings. And I think I mentioned to you that when we were fortunate enough to visit with the president of New Guinea; got to have a private audience and sit down and talk to him and had prayer with him. Do you think we brought a gift? Yes, you do. When you go see a king, you'd better bring a gift with you. It's just appropriate. Its good protocol.

I hope you don't come before the King of the universe on Sabbath morning without bringing a gift. Unless you have nothing you could bring. You know that story, it's not in the Bible, it's a legend about the Little Drummer Boy. The wise men bring their gifts for the King and the drummer boy says, “I have no gift. All I can do is play.” What God was happy with that gift, because that's all he had? But when you come before a king we should be willing to give a gift. And here she wants to speak to the wisest and wealthiest king in the world. And she wants to get his attention and so she presents this gift.

And it goes on here, after she sees the King. “So Solomon answered all her questions; and there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cup bearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord.” I'm glad that he showed her the way to the house of the Lord. “There was no more spirit left in her.” Do you know how that translates? This is where the phrase comes from. The word spirit there is breath. She was left breathless. Have you ever heard that expression? It comes from this story. When she saw this, it left her breathless. No more spirit left in her. “And she said to the King: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land of your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw it with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceeds the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed by the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”

Notice this, “Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold.” You know, that’s probably more than is in Fort Knox. Is that an extravagant gift? Notice, whom did she give it to? Solomon. Who was Solomon? What’s his lineage? The son of David. She gave this lavish gift to the son of David. Why? Well, for one thing, she knew the right value of wisdom. She says, “I wanted to hear.” Came to prove him with hard questions. Proverbs 8:11, “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that one might desire cannot be compared with her.”

Picture for a moment here that you're given a credit card. You know, sometimes people. Someone gave me a gift card during the holidays, $15 at Wal-Mart. And I appreciate it. I spent it this week. No, I was very thankful for that. Suppose someone now gives you a gift card and it's not just for one store, it’s for an entire mall and it’s unlimited. That got a reaction, didn't it? Some of you liked even just the concept, huh? And you've got one week you could spend in the mall. You'd probably have to rent a few semis, right? With that card, unlimited. It's from Bill Gates. And you can either receive that gift, that card, or wisdom. Which is more important? According to the Bible, all things that you might acquire are not worth as much as wisdom. So when she brought this gift, to pave the way so she could have an audience with the king, to understand what real wisdom was, was it a waste? And don't forget, Solomon, the son of David, is a type of Christ. The lavish gift that this woman; isn't it interesting, it's not the king of Sheba? It's the Queen of Sheba. This woman, another type of the church like Mary, gives this lavish, extravagant gift to the son of David. What she sorry she did it?

Go back to the story here. And you can read in II Chronicles; this is actually the Chronicle's version. In II Chronicles 9:12, “Now King Solomon gave to the Queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, much more than she had brought to the king. So she turned and went to her own country.” Now the way I read this, it says he gave her more than she gave. Isn't that what it says? “Much more than she had brought to the king. So she turned and went to her own country.” She may not have gone back with gold. It wouldn't have made any sense for her to bring gold and take the gold home again. But she brought something more home with her that she brought to the king. I wish I knew exactly what that was. She may have taken some of the merchandise that was made of [tecainin?] they did not have in Sheba. The gold mines of [Ophir] we're not far from Sheba, so they had gold mines there. That's where she got all the gold. But she went home with more then she brought and she brought 120 talents of gold. [end side one]

You know, if you come to church, and you empty your pockets, and you go home and you have salvation, you've taken more than you brought. Isn't that right? I wonder if her finding the Lord. It says she saw the ascent of the House of God. And she blesses the Lord of Solomon. I wonder if that's what she took home. You know the people in Ethiopia today are still Christians? And they can trace it all the way back to the Queen of Sheba. How many of you knew that? And you’ve got the Coptic Church there. Great love gives extravagantly.

I read in history that Marc Anthony gave Cleopatra, how many of you know the rest of this sentence? A city. You’ve heard about the expression, we gave them the key to the city. He really gave her a city. It was the City of Caesarea, later called Caesarea. Of course, it didn’t last long because Marc Anthony was then later killed by Augustus Caesar. But he gave Cleopatra a city. How many of you would think that’s extravagant? How many of you ladies would think that’s extravagant? How many of you ladies would like your husband to give you a city? Come on, now. Wouldn’t that be nice? “I’ve got you something, dear.” “What is it?” “Well, come with me.” And as you’re flying over, “Look out your window. See that; see that city down there on the seashore. The turquoise water and the beaches.” “Oh, a vacation on the beach.” “No, the city. It’s all yours.” Doesn’t that just warm your heart to think that some guy. You think, “Yeah, that’s extravagant. I wish someone would do it for me.” I know, you're feeling conflicted now, aren't you ladies? You're thinking, “That’s extravagant.” “It would be nice to have someone love me that much, to give me a city.” Because extravagant love gives that way.

There are examples of that in the Bible. I Kings 3:3 “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statute of David his father.” How do you first of all show your love for God? By total dedication and obeying God. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “And he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice their, for there was a great height place: and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that alter.” A thousand burnt offerings? Well, that's a pretty big sacrifice. I mean I can just hear people saying, “Well, that's a terrible waste of lambs and rams and oxen.”

You know, it makes me think of King Saul. Look at the contrast between King Saul and King Solomon. God told King Saul to go and annihilate the Amalekite nation. When he came back from battle with the Amalekites he was bringing with him all of their oxen and sheep. And Samuel had said, “Don’t let the donkeys, the cattle, the sheep, don't let anything live. The whole nation is deceased and cursed. You're to annihilate them.” I guess you would define that as Bible endorsed genocide. That's not my point. When Saul saw all of the cattle and sheep He said, “Hey, you know what? Why would we want to waste all these? We could bring them back and offer them as a sacrifice instead of offering ours.” And so when he came back and Samuel said, “What’s this?” He said, “Oh, I've done the commandment of the Lord.” He said, “No. What's the bleating of the sheep, I hear in my ears? You were supposed to…” “Oh, but we save them to sacrifice to the Lord, because if we sacrifice them we don't have to give ours.”

You look at that attitude, that miserly attitude, and then he blames the people. And you contrast that with the extravagant love of Solomon. Solomon loved the Lord and he offered of his own. When David offered sacrifice because there was a plague going through the land of Israel. That proverbial sword of the angel was seen over Jerusalem. And David went to the threshing floor of Ornan, to offer a sacrifice, and he said to Ornan, “I want to buy your threshing floor to make an offering to the Lord.” And he said, “No, I'll give it to you.” And David said, “No, no, no. I will not sacrifice to the Lord of something that doesn't cost me anything. I have to buy it or it's not a sacrifice.” That's the spirit of real extravagant love. Does it cost us anything? Extravagant love gives.

Matthew Henry said, “Where there is true love in the heart for Jesus Christ nothing will be thought too good, no nor good enough to bestow upon Him.” Nothing is too good for Jesus. Now why do I see these things? Well, you remember what happened when Mary made her gift? We're going to go back to Mary. When Mary made this extravagant gift that was made for kings, and she didn't just give some of it. She turned it upside down, poured it all out. Poured out her tears, poured out the ointment. And what did Judas say? “Why was this fragrant oil on not sold for 300 [denarai] and given to the poor?” “The disciples said, Why was this waste?” Is it a waste to give to Jesus? Why does Jesus want us to give to Him? Does Jesus want us to give to Him because He’s running out of something? Did Jesus need that ointment because His skin was drying out? Well, He was going to be crucified not long after that. What is it that the Lord wants? What do the gifts demonstrate? Isn't it showing what's in the heart?

I remember the pastor who built this church, [Wheeland] Henry. And his son and grandchildren are still members here, and we saw him here, not too long ago. His brother, Bill Henry, was an evangelist. And I did some evangelism with Elder Henry. And when he was retired, Bill Henry was building the Sebastopol church. And it's completed now, praise the Lord. And I went to do some visiting with Bill. I was doing meetings in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. And we went out to do some visitation. And I went to pick him up and he was there on the church grounds building the church. And I looked around; I thought there was maybe one other person. It was a big church. And it's just this retired pastor and one of the other members. And I said, “Bill, is this all the help you have?” And day after day I'd go pick him up; we’d go visiting. It was just him. And I said, “Bill, this isn't right.” I said, “You’ve got this church. You've got all these members. Isn't anybody helping you?” And he said something that really changed my life. I never forgot this. He said, “Doug, it doesn't even matter if we get the church built.” He said, “All that matters is, if I become like Jesus in the process.” He said, “That’s what the Lord really wants.” And I never forgot that.

And you know, no doubt, as we are embarking upon this church building project, relocating, there will be people who will criticize. And they'll say, “Isn't this an exorbitant waste? Jesus is coming soon. Why would we want to spend time and money building a church when Jesus is coming so soon?” I've had those thoughts. How many of you would admit that you've had those thoughts? Are you aware that people who are involved in building this church, they have told me that the very same things were argued then? 40 years ago this month. I remember hearing about, was it Augustine? He was out hoeing his garden one day and one of the monks in the monastery began to read the prophecies about the second coming of Christ, and he got all excited because he could see that many of the signs had appeared, showed that Jesus was coming soon. This is hundreds of years ago. And he goes out to the monk who’s hoeing in his garden and he said, “Jesus is coming soon.” He said, “I know, my son.” He said, “Well, He’s coming very soon. We need to tell the world.” He said, “You’re right.” He said, “Well, you don’t seem to be very excited.” He said, “I am.” He said, “Well, what would you do if you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow?” He said, “Well, first I’d finish hoeing the garden.”

God wants us to do, with all our might, whatever lies closest to hand. And you know what? If Jesus comes we've got a church halfway built, is that anything to be ashamed of? Be building on God's house when He comes. No. You know what matters? This building is going to get burnt when Jesus comes and anything we should build is going to get burnt when Jesus comes. You all know that, don't you? You know what matters? Are we becoming like Christ in the process?

When I think about what's involved in building a new church, I know I've said this before, but I'll repeat it because it happens often, I shudder. I've been on building committees that just built rooms. And it can be divisive. Matter of fact, this last week we started thinking about a logo for our campaign. The name of the campaign is building for eternity. You might jot that down. You're going to see it on the screen. It was really wonderful when the committee all got together and all these different ideas came in. They all picked it through the process of elimination. It was wonderful the way it worked together. But you get a decorating committee together, and you start getting design committees about how big this room should be and how big this room should be, and you get all these different opinions. And I can create some friction. And you know, I think one reason that God brings churches through this crucible, so we become like Jesus. Whether or not the building’s finished is not the big issue. It's through the challenge of building we become like Christ. I know that may seem strange to you, but that really is the bottom line, isn't it? That we would become like Him. I think that's the big issue with Jesus.

A lot of that ointment that Merry poured out ran on the floor. But what mattered to the Lord? What was coming from her heart, that she was totally surrendered? That gift that she turned upside down, it really represented herself. There will always be scoffers and mockers that will ridicule those who give. Judas ridiculed. You know, why did Judas ridicule? It tells us right in the Gospel of John. He was upset, Mary's generosity, Mary's extravagant giving was a rebuke. He was convicted in his dingy heart. Here he was stealing from the poor and Mary, who was poor, was giving this lavish gift. And it convicted him. You know what the Bible says? Judas went out from that and he betrayed the Lord because he was rebuked by Jesus. Jesus did not rebuke him by name, but He said, “Leave her alone. She's done a good work.” And it says he went out and went right to the priests from that dinner in Bethany, acting like he cared about the poor. He didn't care about the poor. And a lot of times when people ridicule those who are doing extravagant things for God, it is a cloak for their own selfishness.

I remember hearing a story of a man whose wife was over in France for a holiday back before they had telephones, and they just used telegraph. And she wired him, Western Union. You all remember Western Union? She said, “I found of this beautiful fox coat. It's white. It's beautiful. And it costs $1000. Can I buy it?” And he got the telegram and he read it and he responded. “No price too high.” So she came back. When she got off the boat he saw her sporting this beautiful fox coat. And he said, “you asked me about whether or not to get it and I said, ‘No, price too high.’” The comma was left out.

Not only did Judas criticize Mary, but who else? The Bible tells us, Luke 7:39, Simon the Pharisee, Simon the leper, who had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus, he began to ridicule what Mary was doing. He said, “If this man was a prophet He would know who and what kind of woman, what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” It makes you wonder what he thought he was. So, you notice that there were scoffers there at the dinner when she gave her gift. They were criticizing the gift and they were criticizing the giver. They were saying the gift was too good and the giver wasn't good enough. And I can just tell you right now, friends, I hope you don't forget what I'm saying today. In the months and years to come, as we move through this growing process (that's the word for it, too, isn't it?). It's a spiritually growing process as well as a, hopefully, Kingdom of God growing process. As we move through this process the devil is no doubt going to have people he will plant in our midst that will say that we're not good enough or the gift isn't good enough. Anything you do for God, if it's from the heart, I believe God will bless you. Did He bless Mary? Yes, He did.

Matter of fact, before I get to that, I want you to think about something. King David, did he love the Lord? When he brought the ark of God, up to Jerusalem. And did David have a heart for God? Didn’t he want to build a house for God? He spent the better part of his life, all the battles he fought, he was accumulating resources to build the house for God that would be representative of the God, Jehovah. Contrasting with the other gods of the world. And as the ark was on its way to Jerusalem, David was so happy. Now they’re carrying the ark the way they’re supposed to. They’re singing before the Lord. They’re praising God. And listen to this. II Samuel 6:13-14, “Every six paces,” as they’re going all the way from one town to the next, he stopped and they “sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep.” The most expensive sacrifices in Bible times were oxen and the fatted sheep. And every six paces. Can you imagine that? They carry the ark; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Every seventh place they’d stop, they’d offer a sacrifice. They must have had these altars like little mile markers all up and down the road, because they’re bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem.

Is that extravagant? Was God disappointed? Any complaints registered by heaven? Matter of fact, David was so excited that the ark was finally coming to its resting place, what does he do? He danced. He could not contain his enthusiasm. The Bible says he leapt and whirled, is the word that translates there. And he’s dressed in a linen ephod. He’s wearing what the simple Levites wear. This is a cotton garment. He’s dancing and whirling before the Lord. And as he comes into Jerusalem and he’s praising God every six steps, they’re offering these lavish sacrifices. His wife looks out the window; the daughter of King Saul. Did I already tell you about Saul today? Her name was Michal. Raised stingy. And she saw what David was doing and she said, “What a waste. And look at the king prancing around in his pajamas like that. Looks like Hari Krishna.” No, she didn’t say that in the Bible. But she ridicules him for what he was doing. You know how David responded to that? He said, “It was before the Lord I danced, and it was before the God who chose me instead of your father to be king.” Because he had a heart after God. He understood that expression of extravagant love. And you know what happened? Michal was cursed, and she never had any children. She was barren because she didn't recognize that kind of a heart that is full for God, and not ashamed to express it.

Was Mary Magdalene ashamed to show publicly her love for God? Did Jesus tell her, “Don’t do this again. It's an embarrassment. You're being a spectacle.” Or did He

bless her? “Why do trouble the woman? She has done a good work for me. For you've got the poor with you always, but me you do not have. For in pouring this fragrant oil on my body, she did it for my burial. Assuredly I say to you, for wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told as a memorial for her.” He not only blessed her, He said that from that point on through the rest of time on earth, that act of Mary was going to be held forth as the Spirit of God. Is that happening today? Are Christ's words being fulfilled? Yes, it's being told as a memorial of her, that extravagant love that she gave.

I remember a story about a little boy. The father was out working and he asked his son, four years old, if he could go get him a drink of cold water from the well. The boy ran back to the house from the field, and he wasn't very good at it, but he'd seen Mom do it and he dropped the bucket and cranked it up again, and poured it in the little tin cup. And in his enthusiasm to bring his dad this cup of water, as he's running along, most of it’s splashing out. By the time he gets to the dad, there's just a little bit of water in the cup. And the dad saw the happiness in the boy's face and he was, “Here, Dad. I brought you some cold water.” And he takes it and he gets those few drops. He says, “Mmm. That was sure good.” Did he scowl at the boy and say, “You spilled it all”? Why not? Because what's the father looking at? What's in the boy's heart? It's not what's in the cup; it's what's in the heart. And with what Mary did, Jesus was looking at what was in her heart. God wants us to have new hearts.

You know, Jesus gives extravagantly, doesn't He? He has given to us. Ephesians 1:7-8, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Those are extravagant words. Jesus, when He gave His life He poured out. You know, Jesus did with His blood, what Mary did with the ointment. The Passover lamb, in order to be kosher, had to be drained of blood. And Christ gave every drop. The last little bit of blood came out, not from His toes, but probably from His side by His heart. Totally gave Himself.

We have some friends that have a daughter that was diagnosed, a little girl, with a terminal brain tumor. And they were put in touch with a foundation, you've probably maybe heard of the Make a Wish Foundation. And their whole purpose for existing, these children that have potentially terminal or life-threatening diseases, sometimes they've got these dreams that they never get to fulfill. And some of them are very simple things. Some of them are things like, “I would like to have my own computer,” some of the teenagers have said. “Before I die, it would be nice.” A simple thing to fulfill. Some of them, a lot of them say, “I look to go to Disneyland.” Some of them may be want to meet some celebrity. Some of them say, “Before I die, I'd sure like to pet a dolphin.” Is so this foundation is established with purpose of spending thousands of dollars to take these kids that are usually terminal, and flying them, sometimes around the country, or even other parts of the world, to make their dream come true. What a waste of money. Isn't that a terrible waste? Anyone here think that’s a waste? Not if you're the parent of that child. And our friends that their little girl died Make a Wish Foundation took them and their little girl on a vacation. And it was, no doubt, expensive, extravagant, lavish. Was it a good thing? Yes, it was a good thing.

You know, the Lord wants us to have that spirit of Mary, amen? To know how to give of ourselves, to give our hearts. And that's the only way that God’s work and His kingdom is going to expand. You know what the Lord wants from you? He's not asking you for a vial of spikenard or gold or frankincense or myrrh. Maybe all you can do is play on your little drum. What He wants is your heart. Would you like to give Him your heart today? Give Him all of your heart? Because He gave everything for you. Why don't you turn to our closing hymn? It’s Give of Your Best to the Master, 572. And let's sing and will have prayer together before we close.


You know, I'd like to have a special appeal before we have our closing prayer. And there may be some of you here today who have felt the Holy Spirit speak to your heart, and you've been holding back. Maybe you've seen yourself in the story. Maybe like Simon, you wondered if you're good enough. Maybe you think your gifts aren't good enough. Or maybe you've done the work of Judas and you've criticized others who are giving, and you haven't had the right heart. You haven't had that heart of lavish love for Jesus. It's a love problem is what it is. If you'd like to say, “Lord, Today, I don't want to give you the leftovers.” You know, sometimes we come to church, and we pass the plate, we tip the Lord.

I was out in front of a drug store the other day, on my way in. There was a gentleman there dressed all disheveled and he asked me for spare change. That's really hard for me because I used to be one of those people, panhandling. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed. But I thought to myself, “You know, maybe he's going to use that on alcohol or drugs and just hurt himself. But I didn't want to tell him no. So I said, “I'll tell you what I'll do.” I said, “I'll give you everything in my pocket.” And so I emptied my pocket. It wasn't much, but I gave [it to] him. He was thankful. But you know, I wonder if we do that with God sometimes. We give Him our spare change. What He wants is our hearts. Do we doubt that He is God?

If you consecrate your self, and you give Him all your heart He’s got everything else. He has the wardrobe, He’s got the bank account, He’s got the refrigerator. God has everything if you give Him your heart. Am I right? As we sing verse three, if you would like to make a special reconsecration today come, we'll have prayer for you.


Father in heaven, I believe that probably everybody here, and those who are listening, our hearts have been stirred and maybe even convicted. When we look at the lavish love of Mary, Solomon, David and others that really were overflowing with appreciation, sometimes by contrast we feel like we are so stingy, Lord. Forgive us. I pray that you’ll give us the heart of Mary, where we really give all of our hearts and appreciation for what Jesus has done. Remembering that He gave everything that we might be saved. And Lord, now in a special way, as our church moves into this courageous step of building up your kingdom, we pray that you’ll pour out your Holy Spirit in every family. Bless us individually. I pray that you’re tangible blessing will be felt in the lives of the people. Bless their health, Lord. Bless their families, their bodies, where they work. And I pray that it will be evident that we are consecrating ourselves and that you are with this family. Thank you for hearing our prayer Lord. We ask these things in the name of your Son, amen.

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