When it comes to money I’m pretty conservative. If I don’t have to spend it I won’t. I live pretty simply and am happy with that. In the tradition of our faith, there is much to commend that kind of living. We’re called to trust God and not get so wrapped up in pursuing goods that we forget from where all good comes.
As I’m writing this I’m chewing on the readings for the fifth Sunday of Lent this year. In the Gospel passage, we find Mary taking costly ointment and anointing Jesus. Then we hear how Judas scolds her for spending this expensive gift this way when the poor could have been fed.
Mary’s gift really was kingly. It’s the very opposite of simplicity. Of course, it resonates as part of the traditional preparation for burial and as part of the long Hebrew tradition of anointing the one chosen by God. More than that though, and the thing that really strikes me, is how intimate and loving this act is. She uses her own hair to wipe His feet!
Again, there is nothing simple about this act. It is extravagant in the monetary cost and it is extravagant in the physical connection between Jesus and Mary. It’s almost scandalous how extravagant this act is in both financial and physical terms. And if you don’t believe me, ask yourself whether you’d spend almost a year’s wages on one gift for one per person. Or, if you’d use your hair to wash the feet of anyone you know.
Honestly, I don’t think I would.
And what that tells me is that I have a lot to learn about love. Because simplicity is good.
But love is extravagant. Love throws caution to the wind and gives way beyond what is reasonable. There is no end to what love will give.
So, here’s the thing: Simplicity as an expression of my love for God is good. But it’s good because that simplicity in my own life frees me to be an extravagant giver of all the good I have to God’s good world.