Saturday, October 27, 2018

Devotional: Right and Wrong Responses to God, Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12.38-44 outline

Mark 12 closes with a contrast between two responses to God’s ultimate revelation of himself and his mission in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus has already commended a scribe who sees that the real goal of the Torah and the desire of God for his people was always that his people would devote their whole being to knowing, loving and serving God. This service is best seen in daily practical acts of service and love for God’s people, especially those who are poor, needy and outcast from society. This involves commitment of ourselves to God, directing our thoughts and intelligence to knowing God and his world better, and focusing all of our physical abilities on accomplishing his mission to make God known and pass on his blessing to those around us. Now Jesus points out an example of how not to do this and how to do it.

It is not surprising that the negative example is the Jewish leadership. He condemns them for their pretentious show of power and authority, “flowing long robes,” their desire for people to recognize and honor them, and their hypocritical public display of religiosity that covers their greed and disregard of the needs of the people in their care. The focus of their hearts was not on God or his mission but on wealth, power, and the admiration of their peers and people. Jesus condemns religion that is practiced only for public consumption. Jesus condemns religious practice (giving) that attempts to buy off God so that one may pursue one’s own agenda instead of God’s. Jesus, like the prophets of old, rejects a response that does not come from the heart.

The positive example is a poor widow who deposits only a couple pennies in the temple collection box. Jesus ignores the large sums, that would have made a lot of noise as they were thrown into the metal box, given by the rich because there was no sacrifice involved in their giving. They were still rich when they went home. The widow is commended because she gave “all she had to live on.” This woman’s gift reflected that she had responded to God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength.

The widow was willing to throw away all her living for the sake of the temple, while the temple leaders were using the temple to enrich and honor themselves and preserve their power at the expense of the people they claimed to serve. Giving and service to God are not something we do to get it over with so we can get on with our own lives. Love and service for God must be the sum total of our lives. God’s revelation in Jesus requires a response of total allegiance and devotion. Our religious acts must proceed from that. This is how we share in Jesus’ cross and this is how we will share in Jesus’ resurrection and glory.

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