In his book The Five Love Languages, Christian anthropologist Gary Chapman suggests that folks speak and understand one of five primary love languages: physical touch, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, or quality time. After completing the short quiz in his book, I found that my language is acts of service. I like doing things for people, and I like people doing things for me—or at least I thought I did.
My best friend and roommate, Laura, and I are close as sisters, but we are different, make no mistake. She’s a bundle of affirming words and affectionate touches. But no matter how she loves, she loves deep and hard.
When I recently revealed the result of my test, she shifted her love language in a different gear and went into acts of service overdrive. She woke earlier to make my breakfast; she offered to give me massages; she “Marie Kondo-ed” my drawers and closet; she surprised me by grocery shopping before I got home from work.
One day, as we were riding in the car, she looked over and asked, “Do you want me to do your nails when we get home?”
As pleasant as this treatment sounds, to be honest, her service was hard to accept. I’d never had someone so attentive to my needs or desires, and her extra care made me feel uncomfortable rather than loved. She was finally speaking my language, but I was acting like I couldn’t hear.
Our Innately Extravagant God
You know someone else who was—as the kids these days say—extra with her love? Mary. She broke a box of expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and washed them with her hair. Those watching the scene were uncomfortable. Did they swallow hard, thinking of the most extravagant thing in their home—perfume, gold, silk, jewels? Did they wonder whether they would be willing to give as much? How many people were thinking like Judas, Why was this ointment not sold and given to the poor?
According to Merriam-Webster, extravagance is “exceeding the limits of reason or necessity.” No wonder those standing around Mary couldn’t figure out her sacrifice. It wasn’t logical or necessary. But where reason and necessity end, sometimes we run into what really matters.
I think Mary poured out her most costly possession because she understood that Jesus loved her more extravagantly than she could ever love Him.
God is innately extravagant. Have you taken a gander at the world lately? Even in its fallen state, it’s an ornate place. What earthly reason do we need 12,000 species of ants, 20,000 species of daisies, or any of those horrific creatures mercifully hidden in the ocean’s depths? Have you read about the outlandish intricacies of conception and human development? Why put planets and solar systems beyond our reach? Why create all nine personality types on the Enneagram? Because God could, so He did. In fact, I imagine it never occurred to Him to do anything less.
It’s not surprising, then, that He planned and executed the ultimately extravagant rescue when he sent His Son to earth to die and redeem this tragically fallen creation. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world.” That use of an intensifier always gets me. The passage could have said, “God loved the world, so he gave his only son.” But God doesn’t merely love us—He so loves us.
Reject the Gift, Reject the Giver
Now, in slow motion, think about that scene of Jesus sitting there while Mary anointed His feet. The Creator who designed Mary’s hands, who knew the number of hairs on her head, architected the chemical compounds of the oil, and spoke into existence the hill on which He would soon die—this Creator accepted Mary’s generous display of love without reservation. He didn’t gush, “You didn’t have to do that” or “I can’t let you do this.”
I, on the other unholy hand, refused Laura’s manicure because I was too independent or insecure or maybe both. I could paint my nails just fine, and I didn’t deserve for someone else to trim my cuticles. Said another way, I was struggling to let her love me.
Here’s the thing: our resistance to accept love from others bleeds over into our response to God. He gives us forgiveness, but we cling to guilt. He offers us peace, but we hold tightly to panic. He promises grace, but we insist on judgment. Subconsciously, we fear what we will become by humbling ourselves to be loved and at the same time we believe that God’s gifts are too elaborate for us to deserve. So instead of a simple, worshipful “thank you,” we often say, “You really shouldn’t have, God” or “I got this, thanks any.”
When someone offers a gift, our gift in return is to embrace the offering with gratitude. We reject the giver Himself when we turn away what He’s holding out. Jesus, the Giver of life and new life, set an example by accepted Mary’s comparatively meager offering of worship.
Extravagantly Worship by Accepting His Extravagant Love
Recently, I heard a preacher say, “There won’t be extravagance in heaven because the whole place is extravagant—even the streets are paved with gold. We must lavish our love on Christ extravagantly now while we can.”
One day in Heaven worship will no longer be a struggle. It will be full and deep, and won’t that be glorious? But how can we earthlings love Him today as extravagantly as He loves us?
Fallen earth is the perfect setting for a worship that “exceeds the limits of reason or necessity.” Our culture elevates the useful and appeals to its own reason, and few people will encourage us to do what doesn’t make sense. (Think of the people—even Jesus’ disciples—who wondered at Mary’s “wasteful” worship.) To them, it doesn’t make sense to rely on or worship a good God.
Maybe we can start worshipping Jesus extravagantly by simply and truly accepting His love. By accepting His love, we accept more of Him. By accepting more of Him, we know Him better. And knowing Him better helps us worship Him more extravagantly.