Devotional # 33. 5/13/13. Jesus deals with hypocrisy & the widow’s mites.
This week’s Reading: Mark 12: 28-44.
Introduction. Last week Jesus was asked who to pay taxes to and whether eternal life was real. This week Jesus will talk about the importance of giving money to God, His Messiah-ship condemnation and hypocrisy.
vv. 28-31. This scribe isn’t mentioned as trying to trap Jesus but rather that he heard Jesus’ previous responses (what we studied last week) and believed Jesus answered “well.” So he asks ‘What is the first command?’ In doing this he may have been seeing if Jesus would reference the 10 Commandments, disregard Moses or make up His own. But Jesus’ response focuses on the preeminence of God and the essence of the Law instead of keeping one specific command. It is about loving God. As Guzik says, “We can obey God without loving Him, but if we do love Him obedience will follow” (Source 1).
vv. 32-34. It sounds condescending to tell God in human flesh (Jesus) that there is one God but he does speak truthfully. He notes what 1 Samuel 15:22 teaches us: ‘who cares about sacrifices if we don’t obey God?’ God wants us to love and obey Him more than He wants us to follow rituals. We see confirmation that this is true from: 1. The Scripture he quoted, 2. Jesus, 3. the Gospel writer (“he answered wisely”). So why did Jesus say that the scribe was “not far” from the kingdom of God? Why hadn’t he ‘arrived’ at the kingdom of God? Often Jesus refers to Himself as the kingdom of God and the scribe knew the answers but what he lacked was action. He knew that he needed to follow Jesus and accept his words but at the time he hadn’t made the commitment. That’s not to say he never did but at that time he hadn’t put his faith into action.
vv. 35-37. Here Jesus is questioning popular opinion, asking people to think about what the religious leaders were teaching. When the scribes said that the “Christ is the Son of David” they were implying that he would be just a man. So Jesus quotes from Psalm 110 which is authored by David (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, v. 36). Since the religious leaders definitely agreed this was Messianic (talking about the Messiah, i.e. the Christ) it was a great point (Source 2). Why does David (being just a man) write that God the Father “the LORD” (in Greek: kyrios) call the future Messiah, “Lord” (in Greek: kyrios)? Why use the same title for both God and the Messiah? Because the Messiah is God!
vv. 38-40. Jesus continues by talking about hypocrisy. Jesus has just proved that He is God and then compares Himself with the hypocritical religious leaders. When He says “beware” He means “watch”; so He wants the common people to pay attention to whether the leaders are acting religious or are humbly teaching the Word. The truth was that the scribes and Pharisees went around in expensive clothes, made people praise them in the market and were given prominent seats in church and at parties. When it says “devour widows’ houses” it is referring to the practice when a woman’s husband would die he would leave the house as a savings account for her. But the religious leaders would go to the widows and act as estate planners then sell the houses and keep the money. They also prayed with great vocabularies for long lengths of time, not from their heart but just to be watched and revered. Jesus says that they will be “condemned” for this. As we’ve studied before the Greek word here is “krima” which means “temporary condemnation.” So Jesus is saying the leaders faults will be made public and their pride will take a hit. So this doesn’t mean they can’t be saved from hell but it means they may be embarrassed by men or debased from prominence by God.
vv. 41-44. Jesus has been in the temple and now He is sitting (noteworthy because a teacher sits when he wants to be on the same level as the students, inviting conversation) across from where people put their offerings. Offerings (or Tithes) could be grain, animal sacrifices or money in Biblical times but nowadays it is usually money. The bins where they would put money were made of metal so brass coins would make a lot of noise when they went in. The rich people were dumping small denominations but making it sound like a lot. The widow* put in ‘two mites” which was about .125 (1/8) of an American penny (Source 2) and for you Hungarians it would be around .28 of a forint! So Jesus looked at the heart of the giver and not the monetary amount.
Remember Jesus knows exactly how much we can afford (since our money is really His) to give. We are told to give with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7**). God would rather we give Him nothing if we don’t have the right heart. Honestly if we don’t give Him more than we’re comfortable with then we’re just trying to fake it and keep a little safety buffer. Although it is foolish to give all your money and not be able to take care of your family, I am convinced many of us will look back when we’re in heaven and wish we hadn’t been so greedy. Oh, why didn’t I give God the money that He more than deserved! What a fool I was to use it on candy when it could have saved a child’s life with a well in Africa. I bought a magazine instead of a Bible for my neighbor.
*widow – Isn’t it interesting that Jesus had just talked about “devouring widows” and here is a poor widow? It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to wonder if this is one of the widows who had been taken advantage of by those who were supposed to be protecting her.
**2 Corinthians 9:7 – Also notice this verse says to “give as he purposes in his heart.” This means that we should be convinced that what we are giving is good between us and God. We haven’t been pressured into or talked out of any amount. It is very helpful to have prepared what you give before you leave your house that way you can’t feel pushed into anything. Matthew 6:1-4 also talks about not bragging about how much you give. I think the point can also be made that you should prepare your offering before you even go to church. Pray about it and write the check or pull the cash then take it to church. God isn’t interested in the dollar you found in your wallet as He is the dollar that you prayed He would do mighty things with and excitedly gave to His plans!
Conclusion. Through this whole Bible study we have seen Jesus say that He is God and that God wants our love and obedience. Whether that means we don’t act hypocritically with long prayers and fancy clothes or that we prepare our heart (and by extension, our offering) I’m sure we all have some work to do. The best part is we can bring these needs to God and He is more than willing to help us overcome these failures.
Source 2: MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1490.