Mark: According to
The Greatness of the Widow
We finished out last post with, “And the common people heard him gladly.” So Jesus continued to teach them and as he taught them he said to them. 38 Beware of the scribes, who desire and to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:1-7:28, Jesus lays out before his disciples and others what it takes to be a Christian, a true follower of Christ. Now, during Christ’s final time in the temple before His crucifixion, He is drawing a contrast between the attitude of a Scribe, Pharisee and the rulers and religious leaders to the attitude of a true servant.
More than any other passage Matthew 5:3-12 gives us or reflects the true nature of God’s 10 commandments that have been the foundation of God’s government forever. Verses 3-6 deal more with the first four of the ten commandments while verses 7-12, deal more with our relationship with our fellow mankind. Although I just mentioned verse 11 and 12 they also give our reward for faithful service as does the 5th commandment indicate a reward for faithful and loving service.
While verses 3-12 show us that attitude or character of a faithful Christian should be, verses 13-16 tell us what will naturally happen if we become what is described in verses 3-12.
But this plain language had not seemed to soak in to the heart of the religious leaders or even the disciples, so Christ endeavored to teach this same principle by contrasting behavior between that of the religious leaders and that of a poor widow.
“Beware of the scribes and Pharisees who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces” is a reference to the fact that unlike other persons dress, the Doctors of the Law, the Pharisees commonly wore long robes that reached to their feet. Unlike the common people who often could not afford the material necessary to purchase such long robes, these long robes set them apart from others as person of distinction and learning. In the market place they loved to be greeted by the people who acknowledged their long flowing titles of honor and prestige.
Yet for all their learning and supposed understanding of Scripture they failed to deal justly with the people. When a widow or other unfortunate soul found themselves in financial trouble, they would offer to help, but charge huge fees, thus making it impossible for the widow to repay her debt, thus her property was devoured by those that were in a position to help by serving those less fortunate than themselves.
In church they have long flowing prayers that sound grand to the hearer but are nothing but empty words calling attention upon themselves more than upon the One who has given them their position and wealth.
As Jesus taught in the temple he sat across from the temple treasury. This was not the actual room where the offerings brought to the temple were stored, but instead referred to the treasury box, the place where offerings brought were placed. This box would reside in the spacious Court of the Women, so that both men and women would bring their offerings to the temple they both could use the same offering box.
The temple courtyard area was divided into three parts. A part were the common people, the gentiles could come that had accepted Judaism, another for the Jewish Women and the third area for the Jewish Men.
Each morning the men would pray, I thank my God in heaven that I am not a sinner, a Gentile or a woman. Thus, the Gentiles had their area for worship and the Women had theirs, but to accommodate the offerings being brought for the temple, the offering chest was set up in the women’s section for all Jews, so both men and women could bring their offerings.
Jesus was sitting so that as he taught, both men and women could hear him speak and it also gave him the ability of seeing people bringing their offering and placing it in the offering chest. Except that among the rich, the scribes, the Pharisees the other religious leaders brought their offering they did not place, but rather cast their offerings into the chest. This act of casting or throwing had a dual significance in the fact that the money made a loud noise as it was thrown into the chest.
But the act of casting or throwing their money into the chest signified how reluctantly they gave of their offerings. It was only with great effort that they gave of their funds as an offering and they grudgingly gave it, but only after making a show to others about how pious they were in giving of their offerings.
41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and put in two mites, which made a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury: 44 For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihoods.”
There are so many examples one can draw from this lesson, but let’s just keep it simple. Christ had been trying to contrast the attitudes of his true followers from those who only professed to follow. There are many that give to the church of their time, talents and money, but make a big show or production out of the time and talents they give as it was with the Pharisees, they only give of the abundance. If they have any time left over from the busy day, then perhaps and with reluctance they will give of their time and talents to the church and God’s work. After all they reason, the church has a paid pastor and others paid to do this work, why should I.
Yet the widow showed the true heart of the Christian, who is willing to sacrifice of their time, talents and money to further the cause of God’s work in the community and because of her sacrifice she became a light set on a hill that cannot be hid and is the salt of the earth sent to help preserve goodness in this world.
Today, despite the era of mega churches and worldwide blogs, podcasts, radio and TV programs the message is falling on deaf ears because for many, they see it only as one putting on a show. They fail to see the genuine spirit of servanthood that Jesus brought out in his sermon on the mount and contrasting the attitude of the Pharisees with the poor widow who gave her all.
“For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” We are just a few days into this new year, so the question before us is actually a simple question. Are you willing out of your spiritual poverty to put in all that you have for the LORD?” Are you willing to give of your last to further the work of God, or will you continue as the Pharisees of old to give only of their abundance, not really sacrificing time, talent or money to the finishing of God’s work? The decision is yours! No one else can make the decision for you.
Christ came as a servant and he is seeking servants for his kingdom who are willing to give their all for him. What is your answer?