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Summary: In the midst of church scandals, can we look beyond human sins and see God at work? We religious leaders are the object of Jesus’ greatest criticisms; will we listen?

In the midst of church scandals, can we look beyond human sins and see God at work? We religious leaders are the object of Jesus’ greatest criticisms; will we listen? Let’s discuss the two ways of being, the takers and givers in the context of Mark 12:38-44.

Outward Show

Mark 12:38-39 In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets” Are distinctive clothing, public greetings and special seating wrong?

Why did Jesus warn about the scribes? They continually preached against Him. The same caution would apply today to anyone who considers Jesus’ teachings to be irrelevant or out of date, or who wears distinctive clothing with wrong motives, so people will give them special public greetings and privileged seating.

Is there anything wrong with wearing distinctive religious clothing and being greeted in public? Of course not. God instructed high priests to wear special clothing, the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:20). The problem Jesus addressed was the scribes’ motives, wanting praise from men rather than encouraging praise for God.

Scribes wore distinctive white, got in line before the elderly and their own parents, loved titles and people rising as they walked by. Yet, their job was to give glory to God, and they failed miserably. Should we dress plainly and avoid titles? No, it’s a matter of our motives.

Greater Condemnation

Mark 12:40 “who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.” God describes Himself as a defender or judge for the widows (Psalm 68:5). Taking advantage of the helpless, the poor and needy is going to receive greater condemnation from Him.

Because of their writing skills, Scribes were also engaged in writing property deeds, where corruption was always a temptation. Financial corruption is not unique to the Scribes. Christian history contains financial scandals and confiscation of property. Preachers must preach Christ’s message and not be bribed into proclaiming what is popular.

A Poor Widow

Mark 12:41-42 “And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins [a widow’s mites], which amount to a cent.”

Despite the sins of religious leaders, despite being among the people who they robbed, she still gave generously in the offering plate. It takes faith to see God amidst sinful men who lead the Church. It is not men that we worship, but the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

All She Owned

Mark 12:43-44 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

Contrast the widow’s mites with the expensive perfume used to anoint Jesus. They picture the same thing, generous, self-sacrificing love. A day will come when those who misuse the Church for selfish gain, and ignore or suppress the Bible’s message, will be exposed and selfless widows will receive great rewards.

2 Kinds of Religion

Throughout the Bible we see two kinds of religion: taking and giving. Among those who give everything for others are this widow and our veterans. The selfish steal from the poor, while others give generously in self-sacrifice. God honors all who live selflessly. Which way are we seeking to live?

Mark 12:38-44; Exodus 28:20; Psalm 68:5

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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