An online dictionary defines extravagance as a “lack of restraint in spending money or use of resources.” Here are two possible examples from two well-known athletes:
Tiger Woods is reported to have earned $1.4 billion playing golf and his net worth is $800 million. He owns a 54 million-dollar mansion on Jupiter Island in Florida, featuring a golf course, tennis courts, gym and pools. He owns a mega-yacht and a private jet and “earns” about 60 million dollars a year. His former wife received 750 million dollars when divorced and custody of their kids. Extravagant?
Michael Jordan is said to be worth two billion dollars (Forbes, 2020) and his “house” is a 56,000 square foot mansion. The settlement of his 2006 divorce remains unknown, but it almost certainly exceeds the amount it cost Tiger Woods in his 2010 divorce from Elin Nordegren. Jordan’s $2.1 billion net worth is greater than the GDP of Belize. Extravagant?
Before we get too carried away by examining other people’s excesses, have a look around you and then have a look at yourself. Don’t all of us (usually) want more? Not mansions, boats, jets and golf courses perhaps, but newer cars and bigger houses, more clothes and shoes, nicer furniture, better paying jobs, or simply things that will make life more comfortable. These may not be extravagant wishes, but they can be excesses.
I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but think about how much Americans pay for pet food annually ($95.7 billion), lotteries ($72 billion), alcohol ($253.8 billion in 2018, up 5.1% from 2017), horse racing (globally the industry generates $116 billion in revenue each year), and sports in general ($56 billion). Sports lovers also coughed up $33 billion for athletic equipment and $19 billion for gym memberships over the past year. The average cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game is more than $500. Extravagant?
Also consider drug overdose costs: In 2020 It was a leading cause of injury-related deaths, where two out of three involved prescription opioids. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates drug overdose costs at $696 billion in 2018 and more than $2.5 trillion for the four-year period from 2015 to 2018.
But, as the common argument goes, it is their (our) money, isn’t it? Never mind the poor countries of the world. After all, Michael Jordan’s enterprises regularly donate to Habitat for Humanity and the Make-a-Wish foundation. Some people with a lot of money do good things with it, so are they extravagant? Does it matter? Doesn’t our society love and promote extravagance?
Now I am going to turn the corner—actually do a 180o turn—and look at some examples from the Bible. I find that God is not only extravagant Himself, but he also blesses others and us with extravagant things: Remember that Job had 7,000 sheep, 1,000 head of cattle and 500 donkeys, as well as 7 sons, 3 daughters and a “large number” of servants. He was the richest man in the East. Extravagant? Abraham was pretty well off too, “a very rich man, with sheep goats, and cattle, as well as silver and gold.” (Genesis 13:2) But the Big Boy of the Bible, in terms of wealth, was the “Philosopher” (Solomon), who was greater than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 2:9), with houses, slaves, silver, gold, vineyards, ponds, and much more. If this is the same man as the Solomon of Kings, when the Queen of Sheba heard of him, she traveled to meet him. She gave extravagant gifts to Solomon: gold, spices, jewels, and special wood. But the gifts that King Solomon returned to the Queen exceeded hers. After all, each year he received five tons of gold and even his drinking cups were made of gold. Someone kept track of his wives and concubines: 700 and 300, but his only wife mentioned by name is Naamah the Ammonite, mother of Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam. Solomon was indeed extravagant, and the Temple he built shows it clearly.
Then I thought about creation: why so many stars and sand? Wouldn’t a few hundred stars have been just as spectacular? What we see is extravagant! Jesus was extravagant too: he appears to the disciples after their night of unsuccessful fishing and tells them to throw their net out again and they found so many fish that they could not pull the net back. Surely that is excessive. He also killed 5000 pigs and the demons in them by driving them into the sea—a terrible waste of pork!
We also read that God can be extravagant in His anger. He is a jealous God, and his anger is like fire: it can be stirred up and flame. He was angry when Kings rejected Him to worship pagan gods and He is angry when people turn their backs on Him. His judgments are sure and, when they come, swift and awesome—extravagant is the word we have been using.
But the most extravagant thing about God is his mercy: when we repent, he keeps on forgiving us. Jesus wouldn’t even give Peter a certain number on how many times we should forgive others. His mercy is as deep as the ocean and as high as the heavens—it cannot be measured. His promises to us are also extravagant: The God of the universe loved us so much that He sent his son to die for us and then welcomed us as friends,
Furthermore, He doesn’t just give us his blessing, but it is “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over,” poured into our lap. (Luke 6:38). Now that is extravagance!
Karl and Joice Franklin