A Glaring Contrast
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:38-44
Today’s scriptures may or may not be intimately linked, but the placement suggests what Mark was thinking. Both contain a linking word, “widow,” and both demonstrate teaching lessons for his disciples; and glaring contrasts they are.
First, we turn to the scribes. In ancient Judea, a scribe (γραμματέων: grammateōn) is a man learned in the Mosaic law and the sacred writings, an interpreter, a teacher, and often a writer. Basically, a scribe is akin to a published seminary professor. Jesus does not lump all scribes together, but his description warns his disciples about the behaviors they need to avoid as teachers of “the Way.” They should not be flashy in dress nor parade around with pomp and circumstance. They need to take the servant’s position at the feast, care for the widows, and their prayers should avoid showiness. Humbleness!
Next, Jesus sits down with his disciples and observes the donations at the treasury. This place is where people make a simple offering or pay their annual support for the temple. Jesus is watching the collection plate. Many well-to-do people placed their religious offerings in, and the amounts are significant. Jesus is not mocking them but instead provides a contrast. Along comes the poor widow who puts in two small copper Judean coins in the plate, equating to a single Roman penny, to support the temple of God. Jesus points out to the disciples that she has given all she has in faith, out of her poverty, while the wealthy provide only a portion of their abundance. The widow’s sacrifice is more significant because she has given everything to God! The humble disciples are to do likewise.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20
You have taught us that were are to love God with all of who we are. May we give you all of our emotional, mental, and physical selves in your service. And may we be humble as we go about our lives being faithfully present, whether it as student or teacher, doctor or lawyer, pastor or professor, widow or orphan, etc.
I pray this in the name of the One who gave us his all. Amen!