Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Scribes and Widows

“’They devour widows’ houses and say long prayers just for show…’ And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.” (Mark 12:40, 42)

This episode began as Jesus was sitting near the temple treasury, which was in the Court of the Women. Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of the scribes.

Scribes were part of the religious leadership in the Temple and in the synagogues. They performed the valuable function of copying Scriptures. By hand. Scriptures were written either on animal skin or on papyrus parchment, both of which wore out or dried out and cracked over time. Thus, they had to be replaced. So scribes spent their entire work days copying Scriptures onto fresh animal skins or papyrus parchments, and they receive their income for this work from the temple treasury.

Jesus, however, observed a spiritual pride in these men, which He pointed out to His disciples. Scribes allowed the importance of their service to lead to a spiritual pride: they loved walking around in long robes, wanted public recognition in marketplace greetings, said long prayers for show, wanted the front seats in synagogues, places of honor at banquets, and devoured widows’ houses.

In contrast to the scribes, a poor widow walked by the treasury and, almost unnoticed, put her two tiny coins into the offering box, making no perceptible sound as they fell against the copper funnel on top of the box. Jesus had different ears, however, and He made sure His disciples heard what He heard and understood that her gift outweighed all the others because she gave out of poverty and gave all she had to live on. In contrast to the spiritual pride of the scribes, she demonstrated spiritual humility and total trust in God.

Spiritual pride is insidious and deceptive. We guard against it by a daily recalibration of our priorities, attitudes, and walk with God.

Lord, Help us today to walk with You in spiritual humility and trust. Amen.

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