Scripture: Mark 12:38-44 (NRSV)
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 market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour 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.'
This passage from Mark's gospel is a stellar reminder to us of what Jesus thought was important.
The scribes were the well-educated, high class folks in their time. They spent hours devoted to reading the Scriptures and praying long prayers. They were the ones who were dressed to the nines, who everyone wanted to see and be seen with, the ones who got all the best seats in the house and the best tickets to all the major events. In short, they were the ones who society thought were of highest value.
Yet Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes!" For once you scratch beneath the surface of appearances, those are also the very people who are misappropriating the assets of the powerless and using piety to deceive.
And then, as he does again and again, Jesus turns the world upside down. Instead of commending the wealthy for their gifts, he lifts an impoverished woman up saying the penny she gave is worth more than the millions another gave; as she gave honestly and without pretense!
A stellar reminder to us of what Jesus thought was important: God wants our true hearts, not our false ostentation! May it be so today, and every day.
God who knows us most intimately, help us to be honest with ourselves and with your world. Help us to go of our time, our talent, and our treasure in ways that are real and help to build your realm here on earth. Amen.
associate minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford