Summary: Encouragement to use our abilities God has given us to serve Christ by serving others.
I was performing a wedding for a young couple. Before the wedding, the groom came to me and said, “Pastor, I will give you $100 if you change the wedding vows. When you get to the part to ask me to honor, love and obey, just leave that part out for me. Then, he handed me $100. During the wedding, when it came time for the young man’s vows, I asked him, “Will you bow down before your bride and obey her every command, serve her breakfast in bed each morning and never look at another woman as long as you both shall live?” In a tiny voice, the groom said “yes”. Then, he whispered in my ear, “What happened, I thought we had a deal?” I gave him back his $100 and told him that the bride had offered me more money!
God is not looking for the best offer from us. In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about the teachers of the law.
(Mark 12:38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”)
They like to look religious and have the best places but they cheat widows and then pray long prayers that the widows lives improve. Jesus says that they will be punished most of all, even more than Jesus was on the cross. What kind of religion do we want? Do we want a religion that is comfortable and just gives us good feelings? Or, do we want to live in a relationship with Jesus and do what he tells us? Are we willing to leave our comfort zones to follow Jesus? Or, are we like the teachers of the law?
Next, we see Jesus in the temple watching people put their offerings in the plate.
(Mark 12:41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.")
He sees that the rich put in large amounts but a poor woman who only has two coins, puts both coins in the plate. She does not put one in and keep one for herself, she gives all to God. Last week, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength. That is what this woman was doing.
There were six people trapped in a dark, cold cave. They each had a stick of wood. The fire in the middle of the cave was starting to go out. The first woman refused to put her wood in the fire because there was someone she didn’t like in the circle. The next man held onto his stick of wood because there was someone who did not belong to his church in the circle. The third man was a poor man and he said, “Why should I give my stick to warm the rich?” The next man was rich and he said, “Why should I sacrifice my stick to warm the lazy poor?” The next man was greedy and he said, “I will save my stick of wood for tomorrow night to warm myself.” That night, they all died. However, they didn’t die from the cold in the cave, they died from the cold in their hearts.
Like the widow, we are called to love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength. Do we do this? Or, do we spend more time watching TV, than praying and worshipping God? Do we spend more money at McDonalds and the Dollar Store than we do in giving to the church or other charities? Do we use our abilities God has given us to serve only ourselves or do we use them to serve Christ by serving others?
Let us pray that we have hearts like the widow. Let us pray:
Lord, help us to love You like the widow, with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen.