Sermon Outline On Mark 12:38-44
As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
There is an episode in the TV series Law and Order. While they were solving a murder case, they also became involved in what turned out to be a case of stolen identity. Lonnie Jackson’s identity was stolen and his home was mortgaged. Lonnie says in frustration to his doctor son, ‘It’s not what you own, it’s who you are.’
Is today’s scripture lesson about who you are or what you own? Is it about what you do with what you own? Is there something deeper going on here?
We have two separate stories that appear next to each other in Mark’s gospel. In one story we are warned to beware of the teachers of the law or the scribes. They walk around in long robes so that they might be noticed. They sit in the best places in both the synagogues and banquet rooms. They say long prayers for appearance sake. In other words they do all they do as a way of getting attention, as a way of bringing honor to themselves. They do what they do for their own benefit, even taking advantage of helpless widows.
From there we jump to Jesus sitting in the Temple watching people bring their offerings of money. He watches the rich bring great sums. Then he watches a poor widow place two coins of minimal value into the box.
Isn’t it just like Jesus? The next thing we know Jesus is saying the poor widow put in more than all the rich people. They put in huge amounts. She put in two tiny coins. And yet Jesus says, she put in more. Why would he say that? Because they gave out of their abundance, and she gave out of her poverty. As a matter of fact, she gave all she had.
Two stories. One about self-righteous scribes and one about a poor widow who was unnoticed by all except Jesus. Two stories side by side in Mark’s gospel. Why do they appear next to each other? Why do we choose to look at both of them today?
Well, they are both Temple stories. Jesus is teaching in the Temple when he shares this thoughts about the self-centered scribes. The poor widow is giving her money in the Temple.
Both stories deal with widows. Jesus says the selfish scribes ‘devour widow’s houses.’ You see they were the lawyers. In that day there was nothing more helpless than a widow. These teachers of the law would ‘help’ the widows with their finances when they lost their husbands. They would help them right out of all they owned. Yes, both stories mention the widow.
There is another possibility. Maybe Mark is trying to illustrate in a dramatic way the contrast in these two models of behavior. Scribes who are proud and greedy compared to the widow who is humble and generous. The scribes who are focused on themselves compared to the widow who is focused on God. There is a contrast in attitude, motive, focus, and priority.
Some of you may have read Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. This is a book about MY purpose in life’“a search for MY purpose for being. This book about MY purpose begins with these words, ‘It’s not about you.’ The contrast we find in these two stories we have read today says, ‘It’s not about you.’
In 1989 that’s what Detroit Loins fans and others were thinking, ‘It’s not about you,’ when Barry Sanders signed a 5 year contract for $6.1M to play pro football. There was a great deal of criticism, calling Sanders and his agent greedy. The criticism grew even louder when it was announced that Sanders would receive a $2.1M signing bonus. Greedy, greedy, greedy.
People were thinking, ‘It’s not about you.’ They were criticizing this greedy man right up to the time they learned about the $210,000 check Barry Sanders wrote to his little Baptist church in Wichita, KS. You see, Barry Sanders is a tither. Barry Sanders immediately gave 10% of his signing bonus to his church.
The tithe is the standard for giving in the church. It has been that way for about 4000 years. Even before Moses and the law, Abram gave 10% out of gratitude to God for the victory that returned his nephew Lot and his possessions safely. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, promised 10% to God in gratitude for God’s providential care. It is years after that when Moses gives to the people God’s laws related to their offerings. The tithe was the standard. It has always been the standard for giving in support of the church.
Fred Craddock suggests that these two stories are a part of the others that surround them and that the focus of them all is a proper understanding of life before God. There is a proper way to live our lives in the presence of Almighty God. We don’t do certain things so that we are right before God. That comes by God’s grace. The things we do before God are symptoms of being right before God. Our giving with glad and generous hearts is a symptom of being in love with God.
After giving, the widow had nothing’“nothing EXCEPT complete trust in God. The measure of our giving has nothing to do with the content of an offering envelope and everything to do with the content of our heart. It has been suggested that Jesus said in effect to his disciples, ‘You have been very interested in greatness. Look at her; she has done something great.’
We have a choice. We can be proud and greedy like the scribes, or we can be humble and generous like the widow. Both got the attention of Jesus.