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Wealth + Responsibility

Could “poverty” be the real definition of “prosperity”.

An interesting analysis by Kenneth Wuest…underlined sections are my comments…

Mark 12:38-40 – Jesus warns the people against the scribes. He recognizes their official character and the duty of the people towards them as authorized teachers, but He denounces their conduct.

He says they love certain things. The word is phileo “to be fond of, to like.” They are fond of wearing long clothing. The word is stole, and is used in the Old Testament of priestly or royal robes, and in the New Testament, of dress worn on festive or solemn occasions. Our Lord does not condemn the use of a dignified costume, but the use of it for the sake of ostentatious display is clearly not encouraged.

The scribes were also fond of salutations in the market places (the public forums) in the cities or towns, and to be called Rabbi. Our Lord did not refuse such titles, but He did not demand nor desire them, as did the scribes. The titles and greetings should not be connected to position but to function. They are given due to genuine respect, they are earned and given freely, not demanded.

They were fond of the chief seats in the synagogues. These were benches up in front facing the congregation, and were reserved for officials and persons of distinction. The scribes claimed the places of honor also at social gatherings, but the true position of leadership is at the bottom, serving others.

They were fond of the uppermost places at feasts. The word here is protoklisia, “the first reclining place.” This is the place of the most honored guest at a feast. The orientals reclined on couches around the table instead of sitting on chairs as we do. 

These scribes devour widows’ houses. People often left their whole fortunes to the Temple, and a good part of the money went finally to the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes were employed to make out wills and conveyances of property. They inveigled widows to give their homes to the Temple, and then took the proceeds of the sale for themselves. In order to do this, they offered long prayers in the homes of these widows and for them. Thus, they bent the widows to their will. Our Lord calls these prayers, a pretence. They could not be true prayers when offered with such an ulterior purpose. Swete says: “Men who rob widows, and use prayer as a means of securing opportunities for committing a crime, shall receive a sentence in excess of that which falls to the lot of the dishonest man who makes no pretence to piety; to the sentence of the robber will be added in their case the sentence on the hypocrite.” 

Translation. And in His teaching He was saying: Be constantly bewaring of the scribes who are fond of parading about in long robes, and are fond of salutations in the market places, and the seats of honor in the synagogues, and the chief couches at the feasts, those who devour the houses of widows and for a pretence offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.   

(12:41) Our Lord’s teaching in the Court of the Gentiles had ceased, and He had passed within the low marble wall which fenced off the inner precinct of the Temple from the Gentiles. He was now in the Court of the Women. Here were thirteen chests placed at intervals around the walls, each marked with the purpose to which the offerings were to be devoted. This colonnade under which these chests were placed, was called The Treasury. Here our Lord sat down and looked with a discerning eye (theroreo) how the crowds threw in their money.  Expositors says: “This charming story comes in with dramatic effect, after the repulsive picture of the greedy praying scribe. The reference to the widows victimized by the hypocrites may have suggested it to the evangelist’s mind….One can imagine what comfort it would bring to the poor, who constituted the bulk of the early Gentile Church.” 

Translation. And having sat down opposite the treasury, He was viewing with a discerning eye how the crowd throws money into the treasury. And many wealthy ones threw in much.   

(12:42) The word “poor” is ptochos, the word used to designate the pauper rather than the mere peasant. The two mites were each the smallest copper coin in circulation, the eightieth part of a denarius. The widow threw in a total of one-fourth of a cent.

Swete says: “The point of the present story lies in the circumstance that the widow’s last quadrans was in two coins, and that she parted with both. A Rabbinic rule seems to have prohibited the offering of a single lepton.”

Expositors say: “smallest of brass coins, significant of deep poverty; two given, of a willing mind.” The emphatic position of the word “poor” in the Greek text, speaks of the fact that she was poverty-stricken, shown by her dress and wasted look. 

Translation. And there came one, a widow, poverty-stricken. She threw in two mites, which are a farthing.
(12:43, 44) The widow cast in more than all the wealthy in the sense that relatively to their respective means, her gift was incomparably the greater. All of which means that it is not how much we give to God, but how much we withhold for ourselves, that He is concerned about. The lesson is also brought home to our hearts that in the last analysis, God wants, not what we have, but us, our hearts.    

Translation. And having called His disciples to Him He said to them, Truly, I am saying to you, This widow, and she, poverty-stricken, threw in more than all those who threw into the treasury, for they all threw in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty threw in all, as much as she had, the whole of her life’s necessities.


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