When in Louisiana, you may be treated to some “lagniappe” (pronounced LAN-yap). This isn’t a Cajun dish. It is a colloquial term that means “a little something extra.” A merchant, clerk or salesman may throw in an additional perk or two as a way of showing kindness and generating goodwill. This is similar to a “baker’s dozen” where a thirteenth roll is added to the 12 ordered by the customer. Mark Twain liked this practice – and word – so much that he described it as the “word worth going to New Orleans to get.”
Christ calls us to give a little extra. He doesn’t want us to settle for the average of what others are providing. The measure of our success is whether I am better today than I was yesterday. We will ultimately be judged by our own abilities and actions, not the actions of others. This is emphasized in Scripture as a fundamental concept for personal action: Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 14:12; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:5. The real test is not whether I’m doing as much as others or whether I’m doing what’s required, but whether I’m doing what I can.
The Lord prods us to strive to do a little extra in our lives, to reach beyond our comfort zone and to do more than the average. Consider three areas where this is stressed:
First, we should give up the extra coat. John the Baptist preached the necessity of repentance. This was his major theme (see Matt. 3:1ff). His listeners knew they must “repent,” but they were unclear about what it meant for them personally: “And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:10-11). This illustrates that living penitently before God extends to every area of our lives. Generosity is a fruit of repentance. We show real repentance by acting in a way that is consistent with saying we regret our sins against God, and determination against avarice, by being as generous with others as He has been with us.
Second, we should go on the extra mile. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said His followers will do more than required: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:41). Jesus was referring to a provision in ancient Roman law called “impressment.” Under the impressment law, a Roman soldier could force non-Romans to carry his equipment (sometimes weighing up to 100 pounds) for one Roman mile (about 1600 yards). This lesson from Jesus illustrates how His followers will relinquish their individual rights in order to serve the greater good of God and His kingdom through self-sacrfice. We no longer live for ourselves, but Christ (Gal. 2:20).
Third, we should grind out the extra work. One of the greatest chapters about the resurrection of Jesus is I Corinthians 15. Paul laid out all the evidence: Old Testament prophecies, numerous eye-witnesses, changed lives. He ends the chapters by calling us to do more than the minimum to serve God, because He will surely reward us in heaven: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). “Abounding” refers to material that overflows its container. We should do all the extras we can, because Jesus rose again for us.