Mark 12:38-40 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”
Jesus’ conflicts were never with prostitutes or tax collectors or even the thief on the cross next to Him, but rather with the religious professionals of the day. From the days of the Old Testament prophets God had a lot to say to and about the people who were supposedly serving Him full time. There were certainly those who served Him with their whole hearts, and He delighted to use them for His purposes. However, all too often there were those who presumed on their office and made a mockery of it, from the sons of Eli in 1 Samuel on. The same holds true today. These days the “devouring widows’ houses” is done by television, with talk of “seed faith” and the like to dupe people into sending in their money voluntarily. They twist valid Scriptures to their financial advantage. Since the Scriptures are valid, sometimes the people sending money, who might be giving it to God in all honesty, are indeed blessed, and the “evangelist” uses those stories to further line their own pockets. Jesus says very plainly that “such people will be punished most severely.”
As a “religious professional” myself, I really need to pay attention here. My bank balance makes it clear I haven’t used my office for financial advantage, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t perhaps misused my office at some point (though I’m not aware of it). In Narita airport the other day I saw some very large gentlemen with huge ornate crosses around their necks, prominently projected by their ample girths, and this passage came to mind. However, I don’t know their hearts, and God does. I’m not to spend my time judging others, certainly, but I am to be discerning and I am especially to be careful of my own stewardship of God’s calling on my life and the gifting He has given me to fulfill it. Today I will be attending a church I pastored many years ago. I am not to push myself forward, but rather to hold myself available for however the Lord wants to use me, in blessing and perhaps even in admonition. God has His plans, and I am to submit myself to them.
Father, thank You for this trip and all You have done in it. Thank You that it is winding down. A week from today I will be attending the 60th Anniversary Celebration of a church my father founded, and then going on home to Omura. You know the rush it gives me to be able to write that! Help me be fully present, today and each remaining day of the trip, so that I won’t miss any opportunity You give me to be Your agent, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!