I read several different books as part of my devotions, and it’s always intriguing when the same topic is covered on the same day by more than one source.
That may be coincidental, or it may not; in any case, I take it as a nudge from the Lord that I need to study more about that subject.
On Friday, the subject was extravagant giving.
Jan Karon’s delightful and heart-warming book, The Mitford Bedside Companion (linked here), is a compilation of the author’s reflections, anecdotes from her Mitford book series, devotional thoughts, and more.
The selection I read was about a character named Esther Bolick, famed in the small town of Mitford for her orange marmalade cakes. She was preparing to bake a batch as Christmas gifts for her dearest friends, when she thought to ask her husband to calculate the cost of each cake, including labor, materials, time, and overhead.
After some figuring, he announced, “Forty-three dollars!”
The couple was dismayed. The elderly (and not wealthy) Esther considered reverting to her “short list” and saving money. But by the next morning, she had reconsidered.
“Just don’t count the cost!” she told her husband.
The next selection I read was about Mary’s (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) lavish gift to Jesus of spikenard, or nard, a precious perfume and ointment worth $30,000 in today’s currency.
Though Jesus had told his disciples that he would soon have to suffer and die, none of his disciples seemed to grasp the reality of his message.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. – Mark 8:31-32
But Mary understood.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. – John 12:3
And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. – Luke 7:38
Commentators point out that Mary’s gift was lavish not only because of its monetary value, but because of how it impacted the rest of her life. The nard had most likely been set aside for her dowry, the key to a well-made marriage.
In sacrificing her most precious possession, Mary could have been sacrificing her future as well.
But she did not count the cost.
When I want to give, practical considerations sometimes hold me back. But both of these simple stories remind me to give, without reservation or worry. After all, God promises we can never out-give him.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. – Luke 6:38
Does anything ever hold you back from giving? What inspires you to give? I welcome your thoughts.