I enjoyed reading Joni Eareckson Tada’s Spectacle of Glory devotional book a couple of years ago. One quote from the book that came back to me many times after reading it was from the August 9 entry, which commented on Ephesians 3:8 about “the unsearchable riches of Christ”:
We can study all we want, but Jesus will always be a greater Savior than what we think He is. He is more ready to forgive than you can imagine asking Him. He is more willing to supply your wants and needs than you are to declare them. He is so much more ready to give than you are to receive. Don’t ever tolerate low thoughts of a barely adequate, minimalist Savior who might “keep you going” but not much more. Jesus has riches to bestow on you right now. He will not only give you heaven above, but heaven-hearted joy in serving Him here on earth.
Lord, my thoughts about You are too small, too lean, too sparse, too thin, too colorless. Paul writes about your unsearchable riches, but on some days, I barely even approach the treasuries. My mind is filled with too many smaller things. I’m in the trees and can’t see the mountains. Lift my gaze to your greatness and majesty today (p. 242, emphasis mine).
The phrase “minimalist Savior” especially jumped out at me, since minimalism is such a byword these days. I don’t want to comment on the current notions of minimalist lifestyles or practices, but I began to think of other ways we should not be minimalists.
In thoughts of our Savior
Joni wasn’t saying Jesus lived extravagantly while on earth. He was born into a poor earthly family. He didn’t own a home as an adult. One former pastor used to say that Jesus was “born from a borrowed womb and buried in a borrowed tomb.”
But, contrary to the “prosperity gospel,” all blessings are not material. God promises to supply our needs, but He doesn’t promise physical riches to His followers. Rather, “according to the riches of his glory” (Ephesians 3:16), He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20. The KJV says “exceedingly abundantly.”)
Couched between Ephesians 3:16 and 18, based on those riches of Christ, this is what Paul prays for:
According to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Sometimes when I find myself suggesting to God ways that He might answer, I remind myself of this: He can do far more than I can ask or even think, according to Ephesians 3:20.
In Mark 14, a woman came into the house where Jesus was a dinner guest. John 12:1-8 identifies her as Mary of Bethany, whose brother, Lazarus, Jesus had raised from the dead (Matthew 26:6-13 also records this incident). She “came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.”
That might seem weird to us in our time. I went on a bit of a rabbit trail trying to discover what anointing meant and why it was done in that day. The best explanation I found so far is here. Anointing was a mark of respect and also a way of setting apart a prophet, priest, or king. Christ is referred to an anointed in other passages. Perhaps Mary was showing her gratefulness for Jesus having raised her brother. Perhaps she had some of these other aspects in view. But Jesus took her actions as anointing his “body beforehand for burial.” Whether Mary did this unwittingly or whether she caught what so many of the other disciples missed when Jesus foretold His death, I don’t know. Others criticized her actions, pointing out that this expensive ointment could have been sold and given to the poor. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (verse 6). And He promised that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (verse 9).
A similar incident occurs in Luke 7. We know this is a different situation because the event, timing, host, woman, actions, critics, criticisms, purpose, and response from Jesus are all different. The woman in this case is known as sinful. She wet Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with the expensive ointment. The host, a Pharisee, criticized Jesus in his heart, saying, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” Jesus then told of two debtors. One owed a large amount and one owed a small amount. Both debts were forgiven. Jesus asked which of the debtors would love the lender more. The Pharisee answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt,” (verse 43). Jesus said of the woman, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (verse 47). Her actions were extravagant both because of the cost of the ointment, but also because she loved so much that she risked ridicule and shame from others to show her great love to Him.
Have we thought recently about the greatness of our sins and how much it cost Jesus to forgive them? Have we meditated on His goodness and greatness enough to be overawed?
We’ve already seen from these two women that their love and worship led to costly actions. Does that mean we need to get some expensive perfume to bring to church or pour out when we read our Bibles? No. But generosity should be part of our character. King David once said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
When Paul sought financial help for needy saints, he told the Corinthians:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
He wasn’t speaking just to the rich Corinthians. He referred earlier to the Macedonians, who first gave themselves to the Lord and then to the apostles, and who begged for the opportunity to give out of their extreme poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).
I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the rich online recently, and a lot of judgment about what they do with their wealth. But we’re not accountable for them. We’re accountable for ourselves. The Macedonians were in extreme poverty yet begged to be allowed to give to help others.Jesus commended a poor widow who only offered two small coins because that was her all (Luke 21:1-4).
Giving abundantly doesn’t necessarily mean we need to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. Jesus only told one man to do that, because he knew that man’s wealth was a problem for him. 1 Corinthians 16:2 tells us to give as God has prospered us.
Sometimes we save to be able to give. Another former pastor once advised his people to have a “benevolence” section in their budget, to put aside a little bit of money every paycheck so that when they become aware of a need, they would have some on hand to give.
We should give wisely, of course. There is a type of giving that enables people to continue on in their sin. Sometimes we have to say no. Sometimes God says no, because what we’re asking isn’t good for us or isn’t the right time.
And we don’t just give money. Our time, schedules, attention, homes, all belong to God, to be used as He directs.
We don’t give for show, as Ananias and Sapphira and the Pharisees did. But we give as God directs out of a grateful heart for what He has given us.
And we can’t outgive God. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
1 Peter 1:22 tells us to “love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Other translations say “deeply” or “earnestly.” Biblical love could take another whole post (or several) to expound upon, but it’s aptly summed up in 1 Corinthians 13. Verses 4-8a say:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends . . .
My heart is full, thinking of God’s great generosity to me, inspired to be generous towards others, overflowing into even more ways to be generous rather than minimalist: thankfulness, praise, patience, and more.
How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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Amen! We should never be minimalist in our love, gratitude, and bounty to others :). Thank you for pointing out that we should be minimalist in our judgements. We aren’t the hall monitors of other people’s actions.
I think as we meditate on and spend time with Him, we’ll be more prone to generosity in the ways we should interact with others and minimalist in the ways we shouldn’t.
Barbara! I love this encouragement to meet God’s over-the-top love for us with gratitude and worship from the heart.
The more we meditate on His love, the more it spills over.
No, we do not serve a minimalist God. Although we often limit him in our lives and minds. He is always greater than we can imagine and ready with grace and love and forgiveness much greater than we can imagine.
That’s true–and scary–that we can limit Him by our lack of faith and our limited minds.
What wonderful encouragement! Our God is a god of abundance. More than we can imagine, as you say. He is much bigger, more generous, more forgiving, and more loving than our poor human thoughts allow.
How we need to read of Him and think of Him often so as to remember and overflow with His love and care to others.
What a fun topic idea! You’re right; as Christians we should not be minimalists in regards to gratitude or charity. And I’m so glad Jesus isn’t a minimalist when it comes to us.
Amen! He is so much more gracious than we deserve.
Oh, this jumped out at me also, that we do not have a “minimalist Savior.” To even begin to grasp the greatness of what our Lord has done and is still doing for us, is such a huge blessing. Thank you for sharing these precious thoughts, especially as we head into this Lenten Season.
Thank you, Bettie. How we need to meditate on Him more and more.
Excellent insights, Barbara. These are definitely ways that we shouldn’t be minimalists. And I’m super grateful we don’t have a minimalist Savior! He gives us far more than enough.
Thank you, Lisa. His generosity puts my selfishness to shame.
What a creative post, Barbara! I love how that one word in the devotional led you to find all these ways when we should be the very opposite of minimalist! 🙂
Thank you, Lois.
This is a great post! Yes, God certainly wasn’t minimalist in pouring out his love for us, so we should be like him in showing love to him through worship and to others in serving them.
Thank you, Lesley. Meditating on Him makes me want to worship Him more and show His love to others.
What a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Barbara! I love Joni Eareckson Tada! So much wisdom. I remember meeting her back in the ’70 when she was just Joni Eareckson. She made a huge impact on my life as a teen. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Thank you, Patsy. What a blessing that would have been to meet Joni! Her books have had a huge impact on me as well.
Great thoughts! God provides abundance for us and I believe it is our honor and job to share the overflow with others. God is never stingy–he is loving, grace-filled, and our provider.
Thank you, Mary. The more we fill our minds with Him, the more we’ll have to spill over to others.
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Barbara, thank you for this reminder to be more like Jesus and pour out my life liberally to those around me.
Echoing what others have said – great insights here. I love the story of the lady who anointed Jesus’ feet and the application of canceled debts. The greater the debt the greater the gratitude and love in return. He paid a debt I did not owe; I owed a debt I couldn’t pay, I needed Someone to wash my sins away…
I hope I’m never minimalist in my gratitude, love, generosity, devotion to my Savior.
I don’t think I could be called minimalist in anything! I am quick to annoyance but also quick to laugh, quick to feel happy or sad. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
Thank you for putting together this wonderful list!