Week 3, Part 1: Lessons From The Pharisees Cont’d
Day 3: Of Trumpets And Coins Mark 12:38-44; Matthew 23:14; Luke 20:45-47
A simple coin. I held it between my fingers and flipped it over and over again, watching the light move across its surface. How could a simple coin mean so much?
It was my first semester of Bible college. I had yet to find a permanent job, I hadn’t started teaching Russian yet, and God had been telling me there was something very specific that He wanted me to do. Four girls in our Sunday School needed a little extra love. They needed someone to come along side of them and disciple them. They would need lunch when we got together. We would need lesson materials. All of those things would cost money, of which I had almost none.
That particular morning, an elderly neighbor had asked for some help. I don’t even remember now what it was we did for him, it wasn’t anything spectacular I can guarantee that. As we were about to leave he handed each of us a brand new George Washington Dollar. It was his way of saying thank you, and he would not let us return them.
I nearly cried as I walked back across the street with my fingers hugging that coin. It wasn’t just any coin, for sure, that morning I had asked the Lord for a token for good (See Psalm 86:17). It was a promise. He was going to provide.
I was scheduled to work a cleaning job through a temp agency later that day. I did my best, hoping that I might be called back again. I cleaned parts of that house that probably hadn’t been cleaned for a very long time. When I had finished, the man called me to his study and said, “You’ve done much more than I ever expected. I want to give you this as a tip.”
He held out a twenty-dollar bill. It was exactly what I had calculated I would need for our Bible lesson. But, it was my first job for that temp agency. I didn’t know if we were allowed to take tips. No one had ever tipped me before in my entire life. I stared at him awkwardly. “I’m not sure if I’m allowed.”
“I’m sure it would be okay, but I don’t want to get you in trouble. Would you feel better if I called the agency and asked them?” I agreed that would be best. When he came to find me a few minutes later, he was grinning. “They said it was fine, and to assure you that if anyone ever offers you a tip again to take it.” He held the bill out and I took it with tears in my eyes.
“I think you should know,” I told him, “This is an answer to prayer. This is exactly what I needed to be able to do something special for my Sunday School kids on Sunday afternoon. I don’t get paid until next week, but now it’s covered. Thank you.”
The cost of our Sunday School event was $19.95. I still have that coin.
What does this have to do with our study, well, aside from the fact that some of the girls in that class were among those we’ve been talking about reaching, it is in part to remind us of the significance of a coin. We don’t put a lot of stock in them these days. They don’t buy much any more, but one little coin can make a huge difference.
That’s what a poor widow in Mark 12 understood. She knew her simple, precious coins could make a difference.
“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called to his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Mark 12:41-44. (See also Luke 21:1-4)
This passages has so many lessons in it that we could probably spend a week here and not exhaust them all, but for our study its significance grows when you step back a few verses and see it in a fuller context. The verses that preceded this passage are a parallel passage to some of the verses we looked at in yesterday’s blog. They give us more insight into the sad state of the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees:
“And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)
They devour widows’ houses. That word means exactly what it sounds like it means. They eat it up. They forcibly take the widows property and use it for their own lusts. It is the same word that is used in Luke 15:30 to describe the prodigal son’s use of his inheritance: “But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
Could these men have been any further from where God wanted them! And yet, they set themselves up as spiritual leaders. No wonder Jesus so thoroughly excoriates them in Matthew 23. Not only are they not fulfilling God’s command to care for the widows and the fatherless, but they have completely forgotten Exodus 22:22-24, “Ye shall not afflict any widow, nor fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.”
I do not think it is mere coincidence that in the verses immediately following the widow’s offering Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple. Don’t see the connection? Go back to the prophets. Time after time, God told His people, Care for the fatherless and the widow or else. “Else” always happened. So did the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. To be honest, as I writing these words, I am overwhelmed. I see our nation so clearly. How we need to repent.
In stark contrast to the scribes, Jesus chooses to honor this poor widow. He acknowledges and praises the sacrifice she has made in dropping her coins into the collection. He sets her up as an example, a good example. He knows that she has little, but that she has chosen to give all that she has. It was her entire “living”. How precious those coins must have been to her. Her next meal. Her clothing. They were all that she had, yet she chose to give them, not simply to the temple or the poor or wherever the money in the treasury went, but to God.
Whose example do we follow in relation to widows and the fatherless, Jesus’ or the Scribes’?
Whose example do we follow in giving, the widows’ or those who blow the trumpet before them? (Matthew 6:2)
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