Saturday, December 01, 2012

Jesus' Priorities

A sample day's devotional from the one I'm working on relating to Passion Week in Mark.  The previous 6 devotional books I've written are down to the right .
Scripture Passage: Mark 12:35-44

After all of Jesus’ debate partners have had a shot, now it is Jesus’ turn. He asks them a question that none of them can answer. Then he criticizes their pretenses to godliness, instead praising a widow who gives to God the little she has.

At the end of these three paragraphs, Jesus praises a widow for having the right attitude. In comparison to many others, she gives very little—just two small coins. But she gives just about everything she has, even digging into the money she lives on. She is the one God commends. God is no doubt happy with the fact that the wealthy give, but they are hardly worthy of great honor when their giving is at no sacrifice to them, even if they give what seem like large amounts to the rest of us. And God certainly doesn’t commend those trying to impress others with their smarts or religiosity. God commends this widow whom no one might even have noticed if Jesus hadn’t pointed her out.

The challenges of Jesus’ opponents in Mark 12 have come from almost every major Jewish group. They’ve asked him about doctrine, about ethics, about leadership. He’s bested them every time. Now it’s his turn. Who is David talking about in Psalm 110:1? Maybe they’ve been grumbling that he can’t be the Messiah because he’s not a descendant of David (not knowing that he actually was). Maybe he just wants them to know they don’t know as much as they think they do. But they have no answer for his question and are left silenced. No doubt most of us could use some silencing from time to time, especially when we think we have all the answers.

Mark gives us a hint of Jesus’ teaching about hypocrisy, which Matthew 6 gives us more fully. The teachers of the law in Jerusalem were apparently more interested in being admired by other people than by God. They dressed nicely. They took the best seats on public occasions. Meanwhile, they in effect robbed the homes of the weak and defenseless. How easy it is for us to follow this pattern of hypocrisy today, even with such clear examples before us. Jesus hints that we are not as likely to see godliness when we go to the “shiny object” that our eyes are drawn to but with what is going on in the less noticeable, often despised places.

Father, in the moment we are most tempted to think we have arrived spiritually, remind us of the widow who put those two copper coins in the treasury.

“It is in giving that we receive… It is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.”
St. Augustine

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