LUKE 20:45-21:4 SEPTEMBER 6, 2015
“LOOKING BENEATH THE SURFACE”
Outward appearances can be deceiving! It is often disturbing to realize that our favorite actors or actresses are not anything like the roles they have played. I always loved “Aunt Bee” on the Andy Griffith Show. She always appeared to be a sweet, kind grandmotherly type. It has been reported by many sources that in real life she was bitter, mean, and spiteful. It is also discouraging to realize that those in leadership positions in our communities and institutions are not people one can or should admire.
Even though Jesus had already spoken about the hypocrisy of the religious leadership of the Jewish people, he made sure to warn his disciples one more time. Luke 20:45-46 (NIV) “45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.”
Jesus did not hide behind masks. He spoke where everyone could hear him, including the religious leaders. The religious leaders would have looked very sharp. They were well educated and adept at speaking. Their robes were decorated with tassels indicating their training in the Law (the word of God). Even today the Orthodox Jews can be seen with differing tassels indicating a specific teacher or school. There is still intense rivalry between the different groups.
Whenever a dinner was held the arrangement of the seating indicated your status. The closer you sat to the host gave indication that you were held in higher esteem than those seated farther away. It was considered an honor to even be allowed to stand and listen to the conversation. Jesus drew attention to this earlier. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the religious leaders had pointed out that Jesus did not go along with their societal rules. Luke 5:30 (NIV) 30 the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” They were much more concerned with status than with teaching the people. Jesus had told them that he came with a different mission. Luke 5:31-32 (NIV) 31 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus had also pointed out that they were more concerned with their social status than in pleasing God. Luke 14:7 (NIV) “7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable.” Jesus told them the parable of the wedding feast urging them to take the seat farthest away. Their pride in their knowledge and their leadership role blinded them to the truth that the Messiah had come. Proverbs 11:2 (NIV) “2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 29:23 (NIV) “23 A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”
Jesus did not want pride to become a problem with the disciples. Pride led Peter to declare that he would never deny Jesus. Peter’s pride only brought him a bucketful of tears. We can easily see the pride and arrogance in our leaders; but are we able to discern our own prideful ways?
In order to drive the point home, Jesus then pointed out a poor widow and her godly example. It often helps to see a contrast to truly understand how important this message was for the disciples and for us. Luke 21:1-2 (NIV) “1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.”
Too often we look at the rich as being the most successful. I have had many people over the years tell me what they would do for the church and for God if they won the lottery. I think Jesus would remind us of this godly woman.
In the Temple there were thirteen offering boxes, shaped like trumpets, where the faithful could present their offering unto God. Jesus observed people putting in their offerings and pointed out her offering. Widows were often the poorest and the most in need of help. There was no safety net to help people in their declining years. Most everyone depended on their families to care for their needs. Those who did not have any family to assist them would often be in desperate need. Luke 21:3-4 (NIV) 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The two small coins were the equivalent of five minutes of work. Using a minimum wage scale I estimate that her offering was about a dollar. God does not look at the amount that is offered. God looks at our love and desire to honor him. What motivated this widow to put in all the money she had? I think it is obvious that the woman loved God with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength. Her action revealed her heart. Hosea 6:6 (NIV) “6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Luke 6:45 (NIV) “45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”Luke 12:34 (NIV) “34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Her heart belonged to the LORD and she sought to honor Him.
God is concerned with how we love and honor him now. God does not need our offerings but he uses them for his glory and for his kingdom. We can put on a show for people and impress them with our knowledge and/or zeal. But God looks beneath the surface and examines our heart and our motives. Do we truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or are we more like the religious leaders who were more concerned with impressing one another than in honoring and pleasing God?
Has our faith in Christ changed how we live? Does the Holy Spirit make us uncomfortable when we disobey the commands of God? Are we able to discern when pride raises its ugly head in our actions? Do we pretend to be more spiritual when we are around other Christians? Are we silent when people make disparaging remarks about Jesus and Christians?
A century ago the Turks killed over a million and half Armenian Christians. During that time a young woman and her brother were chased down a street by a Turkish soldier. The soldier captured them and shot her brother, but let her go free. Later, she was working in a military hospital as a nurse. One day the soldier who had killed her brother was brought into her ward. He was critically wounded, and the slightest inattention to his needs would have meant his certain death. When the nurse recognized the soldier, she went through a terrible struggle. She wanted vengeance but she had become a Christian and the Spirit kept telling her to be kind and loving. She yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and nursed him back to health. The Turkish soldier, who had recognized her, said to her one day, “Why didn’t you let me die?” She replied, “I am a follower of Jesus, and he said, ‘Love your enemies’.” The man was silent for a long time. At last he spoke, “I never knew that anyone could have such a faith. If that’s what it does, tell me more about it. I want it.”
Jesus desires that we love him with all of our being. When we love God in this way we will seek to please him in all ways. It is the little things we do for the Lord that reflects our faith. And then God uses the little things to do great things for the Kingdom. Pride is a stumbling block that seeks to trip up ever follower of Christ. Holy Spirit, weed out our self centered ways and give us a spirit of humility and a servant heart. O Lord, hear our prayer!
May we pray.