November 9, 2003

Mark 12:38-44

He continued teaching. "Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, -- preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they'll pay for it in the end."

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins -- a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss, she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford -- she gave her all."

[The Message]


1. Just last week we met a religion scholar who was drawn near. This week we meet religion scholars who are not able to get beyond their present constructs. Might this distinction be as simple as getting to know one individual and grouping all of a particular type together? I suspect it is deeper than that and that there are many individual religion scholars who are caught in their own understanding of the way GOD works.

2. "The longer their prayers, the worse they get." A part of this is a lack of balance between "works of piety" and "works of mercy." There would be just as much difficulty if it had been the case of shorter prayers. Again, the balance that needed is for prayers to eventuate in action and action to bring forth new prayers. We cannot let our prayers keep us from issues of peace. John Wesley in his sermon, On Zeal, is clear that one ought stop their praying and other spiritual disciplines if there is the need for acting to set things right. And we are to stop any good works if they get in the way of our developing a good temper, the fruits of the spirit, the virtues of life. Balance. How is it in your life? Are your prayers too long; too short?

3. What with compassion fatigue and all, how long has it been since you have given your all in any arena of life? Experience seems to bear out the reality that it is easier to give all when there is so little that can be held back. The less we have the more generous we can be as we truly trust daily bread for our sustenance. The more we have the harder it is to be generous in responding thankfully. We get into thinking that we will be able to do even more good if we parcel out goodies over a longer period of time rather than responding to the needs of the moment. Just as manna spoiled if held on to too long, just so do resources spoil (though our culture helps to build a wall to keep us from seeing this).