“Surprised” doesn’t quite cover it when explaining the response of the 396 men graduating from Morehouse earlier this month. Robert F. Smith, during his commencement speech, calmly let the class know he was “going to put a little fuel in their bus” and would be covering their entire student loan debt. Just watch this video to hear what joy sounds like in the shouts of these men. Many of them expected to begin their professional lives with over $100,000 in loans to pay back only to find their debts had been paid. There was nothing they could do but say “thank you,” and, as Smith instructed them, “pay it forward” to the next classes behind them.
Response to this act was swift. The initial wave of good feelings was quickly replaced by questions. Is this fair to the families who saved? Doesn’t this encourage irresponsibility? What will this do to address the inequities and problems in our higher education and the way students pay (and pay and pay) more each year for the privilege of an education? These are important questions which nonetheless miss the point of what we are seeing here.
Jesus taught frequently about generosity in a way that remains scandalous to our ears today. Think of the parable of the workers who were all paid the same wage while some worked all day and others had just shown up. That’s not fair. Think of Zaccheus, turning his heart around and opening the treasury to pay back anyone “four times” what he had taken. Think of the above excerpt of Jesus’s anointing. This extravagant gift was poured out… and that doesn’t seem fair.
We are all, you and me, the recipients of an impossible gift of grace. This episode at Morehouse is just the latest example of God’s extravagant, abundant, recklessly generous grace. It shows up to surprise us from time to time. It will always shock and scandalize. The cross is a gift; there is nothing we can do but acknowledge it and say “thank you,” then proceed to witness to this generous reality over which God reigns.
I am going to talk about generosity and giving, specifically giving to Flemington United Methodist Church, in this space in the weeks ahead. We are the grateful recipients of the ongoing financial support of you all, enabling ministries and witness through this church to our community and beyond. Giving is also about extravagant, reckless, open-handed joyful generosity. Our online giving portal is active – if you are moved to make a one-time gift acknowledging God’s grace and abundance, give it a try here. Whether you are reading this on a phone or on your computer, it is easy and secure to make a one-time gift to Flemington UMC today.
Grace and Peace,
Food for thought:
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:6-13 (NIV)