PERSPECTIVE

RECKLESS GRACE

by Bill Johnsson

Who would you say is the meanest person in the Bible?  What about the most generous? (Apart from Jesus, that is. He wins hands down!) For sheer stinginess, ‘Mr. Fool’ is hard to beat. He was very rich, but he was very mean. He could only think of getting, not giving; of acquiring, not sharing.



How he came to be named ‘Fool,’ I cannot imagine, but it fit him to a ‘T.’ Of course, I’m referring to the wealthy property owner who had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, whom people knew as Nabal. That name means ‘fool,’ as his wife, Abigail—beautiful and anything but a fool—pointed out. You can read the story in 1 Samuel 25. When we meet Nabal, David is on the run, pursued with deadly intent by mad King Saul. David and his men keep moving on, always just ahead of Saul. They come to Carmel in the Desert of Maon, Nabal’s country. Although the rich man’s flocks are tempting to the hungry band, David forbids his men to touch a single animal.



Sheep-shearing time comes around, and with it the customary party when the work is done. David sends ten of his men to wish Nabal health and long life, tactfully suggesting that the rich man share a little of his bounties with them.



"Think of this woman. She is powerless, the weakest of the weak: a woman in a man’s society, a widow; and, after making the gift, penniless."

But ‘Mr. Fool’ replies in verses 10-11, “Who is David?. . . Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers and give it to one coming from who knows where?” Fool indeed! When David hears of it, he is livid—he will put an end to Nabal and his meanness. But Abigail saves the day. She learns of her husband’s ungracious behavior, quickly prepares a lavish gift, and rides out to meet David. Her apologies for Nabal’s stinginess cool David’s anger. Meanwhile, unaware of the disaster averted, Nabal parties on until dead-drunk. In the morning Abigail tells him about the events of the previous evening. Nabal suffers a fatal heart attack, and to cut a long story short, Abigail becomes David’s wife.



Nabal, wealthy but mean, demonstrates that those who can most afford to be generous, too often, are not. Conversely, those who least can afford to be generous, often are.



This brings us to ‘Mrs. Reckless,’ the person who is my choice, after Jesus, for the most generous character in the Bible. We don’t know her name. Probably no one knew her name that day in the Temple, as she inconspicuously sidled up to the box where the rich people, with great show, were casting their gifts. She didn’t want anyone to see her, to note her paltry offering of two leptas (Mark 13:42), amounting to less than a penny today. Someone did see, however. This was His evaluation: “I tell you the truth, she has put more into the treasury than all the others” (verse 43).

"This brings us to ‘Mrs. Reckless,’ the person who is my choice, after Jesus, for the most generous character in the Bible."



Think of this woman. She is powerless, the weakest of the weak: a woman in a man’s society, a widow; and, after making the gift, penniless. She is reckless. She possesses two leptas the smallest of coins. If she is calculating, “businesslike,” she will give just one lepton and keep the other one.



But she gives both. And in doing so, she acts like God. God, the heavenly Giver, doesn’t just give. He comes to us with His arms full of good things, with gifts “pressed down and running over” (Luke 6:38). This is grace, and it is reckless. It takes a chance on high-risk characters like me. It doesn’t count the cost. It gives lavishly—recklessly!



How do I give? Figuring out the deduction on my tax return? Figuring if I can “afford” it? Thinking how generous I am? Or do I give recklessly, as a steward of God’s reckless generosity to me!

Bill Johnsson
William G. Johnsson, Ph.D. is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A native of Australia, he has served as a missionary in India, seminary professor, writer, editor, and international public speaker. Previously he served as editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, and as the assistant to the world church president for interfaith relations. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Loma Linda Universtity.

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