The United States Office of Government Ethics maintains pages and pages of rules
related to gift-giving among federal employees. “An employee may never give a
gift to the employee’s official superior,” is one such rule. On annual holidays and
birthdays, however, an employee is allowed to give his or her superior a gift, so
long as it does not have a cash market value of more than $10. Gifts received from
outside the office are even more complicated, with anything valued at over $20
We can imagine that holidays in Executive Branch offices are a little hard to navigate, and probably not a whole lot of fun.
The reasoning behind these types of rules is good, of course. Expensive gifts to
one’s boss could be seen as bribes, and the same goes for outside parties trying to
influence the interests of government employees. It is an ethics issue, and an
important one. But suspicion surrounding generous gifts does not begin and end in
bureaucratic offices, and it’s not always for good cause. We seem to suffer from a
common cultural wariness where extravagance is concerned. Lavishness and
generosity can make us uncomfortable.
Jesus has turned his being toward Jerusalem. The end is very near for his earthly
ministry. Yet, he stops to catch up with friends and encounters a most extravagant
expression of love and gratitude. It should give us pause to ask ourselves: “How
does my life demonstrate extravagant love?” With the treasure and influence we
have been given how should we break our jars wide open and pour the contents
The only way to respond to God’s extravagant love is for us to love extravagantly.