It sounds like the beginning of a joke, “a widow and some hypocritical scribes went to the temple…” but it describes a contrast of characters that Jesus addressed in Mark 12:38-44. He warned his disciples about the hypocritical scribes and commended the simple actions of an impoverished widow. Consider the sharp contrast between the widow and the scribes
Seeking Society’s Attention vs. Ignored by Society
The scribes loved to hear the sound of their names and the prestige accorded them by the multitudes. They loved to walk through the marketplace and receive greetings that indicated that they were on a higher spiritual level. It was this same condemnation Jesus leveled against those who love to be called by spiritual titles: reverend, rabbi, father, and teacher (Matthew 23:1-12). Even today men covet such titles and wear them as badges of honor and pride instead of being content with the name Christian that all saints wear. The scribes also loved the seats of prominence in the worship and social gatherings. They loved to have the attention of society and played the part of a righteous person though they were corrupt within.
Contrasted to these hypocrites who were praised by society, the simple act of giving a couple of small coins in the treasury was almost unnoticed. Jesus had to draw the attention of the apostles to her act of generosity. While the rich are drawing the eyes of the people in the temple, the widow appears to be moving as a shadow among them, giving a small amount, and disappearing into the mass of worshipers. Yet the Lord noticed her gift and praised her service to his apostles.
Oppressor vs. the Oppressed
Jesus charged the hypocritical scribes with devouring widow’s houses. They used the prominence they enjoyed in society, and perhaps their knowledge of the law, to take advantage of the widows. They should have pleaded the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17) and not oppressed them (Zechariah 7:10). These who were weak needed the protection of the scribes but they were victims to their schemes.
It may be, since these stories appear so close in context, that this widow was a victim of the scribes. If so, what great faith of this woman who though “men of God” took advantage of her she did not lose faith in God and continued to serve Him with the little she possessed. It reminds us that the hypocrisy of others, even people esteemed as great people of faith, does not allow us to be unfaithful. God knows the heart of every man and woman. If Jesus could see and judge the scribes as hypocrites on earth, how much more when all are gathered to his throne and every thought, intent, and action is laid open before him. Never let another’s hypocrisy stop your obedience.
Self-Seeking vs. Generosity
As mentioned before, the scribes craved attention instead of giving glory to God. The rich gave to the treasury from their abundance (the extra) but held onto their wealth for their own pleasure. The poor widow gave out of her necessity because she esteemed spiritual treasures of greater value than physical treasures.
Important Lessons For Us
- Do we want people to praise us for who we are or what we do for them or are we happy if only God knows who we are?
- Are we giving from our abundance or are we sacrificing in order to give to God? This would include money, time, and our selves.
- Would we continue serving God even if others were esteeming hypocritical people as godly men and women?
- Can we be happy with only God knowing what we do in service to Him? Remember, the widow’s generous gift would have gone unnoticed by men except Jesus brought their attention to it while the scribes and the rich were the objects of the attention of others.
Let us do all things to God’s glory and seek no glory for ourselves.