I find it fascinating that the wine world is a microcosm of all that is good and bad of our global economy. During Harvest season in Napa, thousands of Mexican workers are camped everywhere, just out of the tourists’ sight in stark contrast to the limousines that cruise up and down Highway 29, transporting guests to the next tasting stop.
The always entrepreneurial vineyard owners now offer wine camps – where for $1000 you can have the experience of picking grapes shoulder to shoulder with laborers who have been stooping long before day break to earn $2 for each bucket that they pick. When asked their opinion of their “helpers”, one migrant’s worker’s response was “Gringos loco!”
We have also all seen the stories of excess right? – Business tycoons competing to build the biggest wine cellars, the Chinese purchasing Bordeaux wines as status symbols – the virtues of $300 champagnes being extolled by the Hip Hop community. Before we judge too quickly, many of us aren’t immune from this societal pressure either.
In a recent study, subjects were asked to rate two wines, told that each were priced differently. They weren’t told that the samples were the same wine. Overwhelmingly, the tasters chose the more “expensive” wine.
The other night I opened a $38 dollar bottle of wine for our guests. I began to question was this an appropriate use of the resources that God had entrusted to me?
Society makes it even more difficult for us to make wise decisions in that it teaches us that our wealth is ours and that it is only out of the goodness of our hearts that we “generously” share any tidbits with those less fortunate.
However, when we look at Scripture we are taught that we are to use our material blessings for the good of the community. We were blessed in order to be a blessing to others. To quote Goethe’s Faust, “What you have received as a gift, you must take as a task.”
Fortunately, we cannot earn or work our way to heaven. It is only through grace. Giving money to Lutheran Social Services is a good gesture but it won’t gain us favor with God. Rather, our generosity finds its source in God’s generosity to us. Only in God does life have meaning and pleasure and the appropriate response to this gift of life is generosity.
In this vein, I think that Mary, sister of Martha, becomes our role model. Mary, in a spontaneous act of devotion, anoints Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume and wipes them with her hair. We learn that Mary’s gesture was a sign that she had her priorities straight. It was a display not of carelessness but of genuine thoughtfulness and worship.
The story challenges us to rethink the criteria that order our priorities. Mary could hardly afford this exorbitant display of faith. She gave graciously because of her love for Christ. There are other biblical examples who also generously used their assets in service to God:
Joseph the rich man of Arimathea who placed Jesus’s body in his own tomb;
Zacchaeus – a wealthy tax collector who gave half of his possessions to the poor;
Lydia – a businesswoman who provided hospitality to Paul and his partners in ministry.
Similarly, daily you and I are offered opportunities to use our resources wisely in service to others. We are called to live lives of generosity in service to our families and communities. We are called to be generous to others with both our wine and our money.