Chapter OneThe Woman of Ill Repute: Extravagant Faith
Have you ever noticed that a wrapped bandage or medication sample often carries the warning, "Guaranteed sterile until opened"? I always wonder if the manufacturer is trying to insinuate that it is better not to open the package at all! But an unopened bandage is unable to do what it was designed to do; it is of no use to anyone.
It is like that with faith. If you keep it packaged up and so private that no one else knows about it, it is sterile and useless. But if you are willing to unwrap your faith you will fill the air with its sweet perfume and it will be a blessing to you, to those around you, and to the Lord Jesus himself.
In Luke 7:36-50 we see a beautiful picture of faith released, and the release it in turn brings. The scene is a dinner at the home of a Pharisee, one of those holier-than-thou sharks with whom Jesus had little patience. In comes a woman who had been a prostitute. Now Pharisees and prostitutes mix like the proverbial oil and water, but she came because she had heard Jesus was there, and nothing would keep her away from him, in whom was forgiveness and peace. She braved the scorn of the Pharisee and his other guests because she possessed an extravagant faith in Jesus that she was compelled to express. She held nothing back from him and, as she poured out her most costly material possession at Jesus' feet, she filled the room with the aroma of her praise.
As you read the story let it inspire you to set the fragrance of your faith free, and then encourage the others in your group to do the same.
A Moment for Quiet Reflection
1. Think about your most precious possession. How would your being willing to give it up for Jesus reflect an extravagant faith?
2. Read Matthew 6:19-21. What kind of treasure are you storing up for yourself? What are some ways you could "give" your treasure on earth to Jesus?
Knowing God's Heart
1. Read Luke 7:36-50 together. As Jesus is dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee, a most startling incident occurs. Even had she been invited, which she decidedly was not, an ex-prostitute coming into the Pharisee's home and anointing Jesus in such a way was startling in itself. The reaction of Jesus, however, was even more surprising. Why? What impact did it have-not only on the woman that day, but on all women, including you?
2. The Pharisees prided themselves on being righteous and keeping the law of Moses. They were considered the spiritual leaders of their day. Yet in this scene, the sinful woman exhibits the greatest faith in and devotion to Jesus. What are the key differences between the woman and the Pharisee?
3. Take a look at the different characters in this narrative: Simon the Pharisee, the sinful woman anointing Jesus' feet with her tears and perfume, the two men who owed money in Jesus' story, and Simon's other guests. With whom do you most identify and why?
4. Why do you think the woman went to Jesus?
5. What would you have to overcome to approach Jesus with such abandon?
6. How do you suppose Jesus' gracious response to the sinful woman affected her?
7. Think of a time which, as you look back on it, called for a display of extravagant faith. Share with the group whether you expressed that kind of faith or if your faith looked more like that of Simon and his friends. What were the results of your response?
8. Would you do anything differently if a similar situation came up in the future? If so, what?
9. Consider a situation in your life today that calls for greater faith on your part. What would you want Jesus to say to you today that would encourage you in an extravagant faith in him?
1. Your group leader will hand out name tags. On the back is her name and number. As she hands you your name tag, introduce yourself and share your phone number with the group. As the other women introduce themselves, write down their names and numbers on the back of your name tag.
2. Discuss what holds you back from an extravagant faith, those things you are keeping to yourself. Write down one of those to "pour out" at Jesus' feet and pass the paper to the woman on your left. During the week, pray for and call the woman whose paper you received and encourage her in her lavish faith.
Just for Fun
1. What is your favorite fragrance? Fresh pine? Chanel No. 5? Laundry dried in the sun and wind? Chocolate chip cookies? Talk about why an extravagant faith would smell like your favorite scent.
2. Write out your favorite verse about "faith." Attach it to a small, fragrant gift (for instance, a scented votive candle, a perfume sample, a flower, a fresh cookie or muffin) and bring it to the group next week.
Join in a "round-robin" prayer. Beginning with your group leader, go around the circle and offer a one-sentence prayer of praise to the Lord. The second time around, pray a sentence about what you are hoping for in this group over the next several weeks. The third time around, pray that the woman whose paper you received would be able to "pour out" at Jesus' feet that which holds her back from living out an extravagant faith. Your leader will start each new round and will close your prayer time with a final sentence of blessing.
Faith is response to Love's dear call, Of Love's dear face the sight; To do Love's bidding now is all That gives the heart delight. To love Thy voice and to reply, "Lord, here am I." Hannah Hurnard
The greatest joy is not in receiving, but in giving from our one-of-a-kind hearts. When we get outside ourselves enough to let God's life flow through us, the sweet fruit of his Spirit will grow and nourish everyone around us. Barbara Johnson
Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual; of impulse and inspiration. Oswald Chambers