Series: BIOS of a Savior
Bible Passage: Mark 12:38-44
Other Pertinent Scripture: Parallel passages: for Mark 12:38-40 see Matthew 23:1–2, 5-7; Luke 20:45-46; for Mark 12:41-44 see Luke 21:1-4
Jeremiah 17:5-8; Matthew 6:1-8; Luke 18:9-14; Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16
The gospel of Mark is a documentary account of the life of Christ. Like other ancient biographies, which were called a BIOS or “life,” Mark’s account speaks to us about the actions and events of a man’s life. But this is no mere man Mark is presenting. This is the holy man who is wholly God, the one who has unique authority to call us to follow him.
As a church, everything about Stonehouse centers on this BIOS - his life, his teaching, his authority, his suffering and his victory.
a note on this week’s text:
Jesus' warning about how the scribes loved to feel important and his statement to the disciples about the quality of the poor widow's offering teach us about both religious based self-righteousness and giving from the heart. Separately we have much to learn from these accounts and when taken together, as Mark presents them in close proximity, they teach us even more about the condition of our hearts.
When it comes to doing the things that we do to serve God and obey his commands we can be motivated at the heart level by opposing desires. We see that the scribes were (largely) motivated by the desire to have the praise and approval from men while the poor widow was motivated by the desire to worship God in gratitude. These competing desires have at their root our deep need for justification.
We were created by God with inherent value and significance as the work of his hand but because of sin this value connected to our creator has been broken and we now seek to base our value and worth in the approval we gain through the things we do. The gospel points us back to finding our value in God and what he has done for us in Christ. We are so loved by God that he gave his own Son up for us but so deeply broken that his Son had to be given for us. Our value in the eyes of God is therefore given to us by grace when we place our trust in Christ. This approval based in the work of Christ is called justification and Scripture tells us again and again that our justification is not based in our efforts to fulfill the law (to obey and live righteous in our own strength) but rather it is ours by faith. We are justified on the merits of Jesus not our own, and liberated from the deeply felt burden to work hard in order to justify ourselves.
Suggested discovery/discussion questions:
1. “Beware of the scribes” Jesus begins… because of their desire to be recognized for what they do. Their religion is a religion of public recognition. They are not sincere in their service to God. They even say “long prayers” as “pretense,” that is they aim to make something that is not the case appear true. Religious practices can often be hoisted in place as coverup over what is true and ugly beneath. When we “use” religion to hide in and pretend, we are in danger of “the greater condemnation.” May we have the courage to search our hearts in light of this warning… For us the question must be asked, why do we do the things we do? Why do we attend a church service? Why do we read the Bible? Why do we belong to a community of faith? Why do we serve/give/teach/pray? Are we sincere in these things or do we want to be recognized for doing them?
2. As Jesus observes the people putting money into the offering box he sees the poor widow put in her “two small copper coins” and it is this woman’s offering that causes him to stop and speak to his disciples. In comparison to the sums of money being placed in the offering by the “many rich people” there is nothing noteworthy about her offering. But Jesus isn’t comparing quantity… he is taking note of the quality of her gift. He says, “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had” she could have given one coin but she gave two, she would have been justified to give nothing due to her poverty but she gave everything. Jesus’ statement about her gift shows us two important things about giving our money to God: 1) God measures gifts not by their size but on the basis of how much of a sacrifice it was to give them and by how sincere & selfless the heart was that gave the gift. 2) It is not merely the external measure of our actions but rather the internal motivation of our hearts that matter. We can give a large sum but be giving nearly nothing, we can give a small amount but be giving nearly everything. Do we typically judge giving like this? Why or why not? When we give, are we prone to feel a certain way about our giving based on the amount it is or do we evaluate in light of the amount it cost us to give? Do we give differently if someone knows about it? If so, what does that reveal about our heart/motivations? In light of this we do need to ask a difficult question: if we do not give at all, why?
3. Consider reading through Matthew 6:1-8. What does it mean to be rewarded by our Father who sees in secret? What happens to us when we receive the reward of the praise of men instead of this reward from our Father? Compare and contrast the attributes of the praise of man vs. the rewards of God.
4. Contrasting the scribes with this poor widow shows us much about heart motivations. We sense the weight and pressure of needing to earn approval for the things we do. This weight can motivate and drive us to all kinds of means for gaining that approval. Whether it’s professional or educational achievements, financial success, the romantic affections of others, recognition for superior performance, praise for our physical appearance, religious duties or anything else merit based we are often approval starved people because we’ve looked to the wrong places to establish our value. Where can we receive the ultimate approval? What does it do to our hearts to receive this justification in Christ? Can we tell the difference between working for or resting in justification?
5. What do we aim to be known for as Christ’s church? Do we want to be recognized for our works or do we want to proclaim to the watching world that we are not worthy of recognition but God has given grace in Christ nonetheless? What kind of people do we become when we trust in ourselves to justify ourselves? What kind of people are we when we trust in God’s justification through Christ?
6. Ultimately the poor widow’s offering points us to Jesus… she gave “everything she had, all she had to live on” and Jesus truly gave all, his very life. If our hearts are to be transformed from the need for approval from others to resting in the approval that is ours in Christ we must behold and believe this glorious truth, that Jesus gave all out of love for us.
If through this passage God uncovers false motives and a heart that seeks justification through our own actions there is still good news for us… Christ died for those with false motives! He truly gave all, in an even greater way than the poor widow, so that we can receive forgiveness and our hearts can begin to be transformed into the heart of Jesus. The gospel says you are not accepted by God because your motives are perfect, instead you are accepted because God accepts you just as he accepts Jesus his own son! May we driven to grateful worship like the poor widow because of this.
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