There's something about generosity that creates a very sweet fragrance. When people give and there's nothing in it for themselves, they've just given unexpectedly to you, then there's something sweet about it. Generosity usually exposes greed. God is love and you can't love without giving. You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving, so the greatest way we express the love of God to people is when we can be generous and kind to them with no agenda. That's when people see God, because that's what God is like.
John 12. “Six days before the Feast of Passover, Jesus came to Bethany; where Lazarus had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper and Martha served, but Lazarus was one who sat at the table with Him.”
“Then Mary took a pound of costly ointment of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil, and one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said: why didn't they sell this fragrant oil for three hundred denarii (a denarii is a day's wage) and given it to the poor? And he said this, not because he cared for the poor…”
He implied he cared for the poor, but he didn't. Rather he was a thief, but he gave out that he cared for the poor, but he was really a thief, and he had the money box. He used to steal what was put in it. The offerings that were put in, he was stealing them.
Jesus said: “Leave her alone, she has kept this day for the day of My burial”. Jesus commended her.
So we saw that generosity is unlimited. You can be as generous, or as mean, as you choose. It's a choice. Mary was deeply grateful; her brother had died, they'd gone to the burial service, they'd buried him, mourned, had the wake. He was dead and buried. Four days had gone by - there's no show of him ever coming back again, and she was still in a stage of grieving.
Jesus came and brought life into a desperate and hopeless situation: Lazarus rose from the dead, much to everyone's amazement. No one can do that except God, and so her heart was deeply touched. Now the gratitude: just what can I give for all He's given to me?
So she took out something worth thousands and thousands of dollars - you imagine 300 day's wages. I don't know what you earn in a day, so just multiply that by a $100 a day:
300*$100/day = $30,000. We're talking very expensive offering here. She just extravagantly put it out all over Jesus.
You notice that when people give extravagantly, a number of things happen. The first thing that happened was: the house was filled with the atmosphere. There's something about generosity that creates a very sweet fragrance. There's something about generosity - with no agendas - that is very sweet.
When people give, and there's nothing in it for them, they've just given unexpectedly to you - then there's something sweet about it. Giving; generous giving.
You know, we come into church, and if we come and just drag ourselves in, and then it takes us half an hour to get warmed up - that's not a very nice atmosphere.
But when we come in and: oh God, you're so good to me! I just want to give something, and we begin to give them something - oh, there's a lovely atmosphere. It's a great atmosphere when people give God the best - and so that's what she did. So generosity usually flows out of a heart of gratitude.
The next thing about generosity: Generosity usually exposes Greed.
Coveting is when: I don't have something, and I want something I haven't got.
Greed is when: I've got something, and I want more of it. Judas was greedy, and he wanted more money; and so generosity often exposes greed.
I can remember we were in a situation where one of our friends had made the decision to go on a mission trip; and I just decided straight away: we would give him some money. We didn't have much money at that stage, but I felt God giving me a figure to give to him. I gave it to him.
I said: look, I'd love to sow this into you. Well there was this deathly silence in the room, and then suddenly someone else erupted. I thought: whoa! What is that?