On Draining the Treasury

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

Churches talk a lot about giving. Some mention it frequently from the stage. Others thread it through most every sermon, never missing an opportunity to promote “cheerful” giving. The reality in megachurches is that there are a lot of mouths to feed who’ve grown accustomed to the finer things in life. It has to be that way to keep things afloat. You’ve got your corporate donors who stroke big checks to pad the wallet, and then, of course, the “widows’ mites.”

It’s very much like us buying the big house in the suburbs within a gated community. Along with this comes the huge mortgage and compulsory big salary. You’ve got to feed the monster to maintain your style of living. It’s a reality of life.

Here we read about how giving should be. Not the fact that the widow gave everything, but that she was obviously confident enough in God to recognize his worth—worthy of everything she had—and trustworthy enough to not worry about where her next meal would come from.

It’s quite difficult to operate in this fashion, that is, to dump everything, I mean everything into the offering bucket when doing so would put you in debtors‘ prison. For example, the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus rather than do it, ignoring the unseen riches of the kingdom. How about that same mega-church sharing all of its reserves “for a rainy day” on some acute need, even in its congregation.  Not likely. Oh, we of little faith!

One of the issues that plague us is who trusts a cause enough to drain their treasuries for it? In this situation, were the people with a lot doing it to curry favor with muckety mucks? Giving the widow’s way is a Masters level class. None of us will probably reach this lofty—or lowly—point in a first-world country.

The cure in my mind is to create your own “foundation” if you will. Set out to cheerfully give in response to the Lord’s nudging in your own sphere of influence, rather than to the endless pleas of those who get a share of what you give before it can fund a cause you believe in.

Posted in Commentary, Mark | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

True Magnaminity

“Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40

As we enter into an intense and raucous political season, like Jesus, we need to see through all the words for actions, and all the actions for motives.

Here the proud religious leaders of the day, who bellowed out sanctimonious prayers in public, were devouring widows houses in private.

Jesus saw them for what they were, “white washed tombs.” (Matthew 23:27)

It’s one thing to primp and strut about for the show of it, it’s quite another to use piety as a front to shake down the poor and downtrodden.

We need to see through all the pomp and circumstance for true magnaminity.

Posted in Commentary, Mark | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Daily Double

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Mark 12:28

After Jesus silenced the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, a scribe took his turn. Whether he was persuaded by the Lord’s responses or simply shrewd, he asked a sincere question, “What commandment is foremost of all.” Since the Jews counted 613 statutes, the majority of which were negative, to focus on the first and foremost might be a better use of time and effort.

By the way, if I were to ask Jesus a question, I’d certainly want to avoid any slight of hand, especially after his associates had been schooled.

Whatever the case, Jesus could now pivot off a passage familiar to all the people of Israel, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) which was recited twice daily: Love the one Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to this he added, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)

To fulfill this brilliant synopsis of all the law would be better than “all burnt offering and sacrifices,” said the scribe. He’d answered correctly, but knowing was much easier than doing. In James 4:17, the principle is this, “he who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

The scribe had happened upon succinct marching orders. He was not far from the kingdom. Would he go there? Will we?

It’s so much easier than keeping track of 613 dos and don’ts!

Posted in Devotionals, Mark | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Curses, Foiled Again!

Some would call the detractors of Jesus gluttons for punishment. They kept coming at him with contrived questions designed to entrap him. But each time he makes them look silly, and simultaneously teaches major truths. Mark 12:13-27

Perhaps more importantly, these men unwittingly acknowledge significant truths in the process.

The Pharisees and Heroduans in setting up their question regarding taxes, acknowledge that Jesus is not partial to any, but teaches the way of God in truth.

The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, oddly said this, “In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one’s wife will she be?”

This is no way to win a debate! It will not go well for you when your first statement to your opponent is, I grant that you are the all-knowing God of the universe.

Why not be like Simon Peter who humbly said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” John 6:68

You can’t outwit the Lord.

Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? Mark 12:24

Posted in Devotionals, Mark | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is the Lord’s Doing

And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away. Mark 12:12

The chief priests and scribes had a huge political problem. Jesus was confounding them with his speeches and riding a huge wave of popularity with the people. He fully understood what was happening and his fate, but it had to be this way. He’d win out in the end, but the process would be agonizing.

Satan continues to try to snuff out the saving power of Christ, sending salvo after salvo against Christianity, but to no avail. It’s corner stone after all is Jesus, and the edifice of truth and life cannot be penetrated or compromised.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:22-24

Posted in Devotionals, Mark | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Answer the Question!

“By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things? Mark 11:28 And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Mark 11:33

The ultimate “drop mic” moment. The complete and total takedown of Jesus’ antagonists. The Lord tied the leaders in knots with his response (see Mark 11:27-34). Truth is, Jesus had authority even over his own life, and he demonstrated this by sacrificing it for us (John 19:30).

It’s interesting that the leaders did not question his authority, but simply wanted to know where it came from. Since the question was asked to entrap him, to get him to “blaspheme,” it was obvious they knew the answer. They spent their time badgering him, when they needed to bow to him.

Remember, one thief crucified next to Christ “hurled abuse” at him (Luke 23:39-43), but the other recognized who he was hanging with. Let all of us see who we’re really dealing with and respond accordingly!

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39

Posted in Devotionals, Mark | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why Ask?

22 “Have faith in God.”
23 “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.
24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.  Mark 11:22-24 (NAS)

For someone who believes strongly in the absolute sovereignty of God, that there’s nothing out of his control, that all has been decided beforehand, and that his will must be done, these promises are problematic.

All kinds of questions run through your mind. What if God has already decided? Who am I to change his mind? Perhaps that’s why the Lord uses the illustration of moving a mountain. Who would contemplate this? It’s impossible. That’s the point.

There are many things in life that appear as impossible as moving a mountain, and from these challenges we must not slink away, but pray. It’s not the mountain that must be moved, but our doubt! With this out of the way, whatever God decides, or has decided, who knows, will be good and acceptable.

“Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) These were Jesus’ words before raising a man from the dead, who’d already been embalmed and entombed for four days! Have faith in God and pray. Yes, he does answer prayer, and apparently he is swayed by a believing heart.

We might say, why pray? He says, why not? I’m telling you too!

This may be why the disciples asked the Lord to “increase their faith.” Luke 17:5 It’s obviously the first mountain to be moved.

Posted in Devotionals, Mark | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment