The Radical Love of Jesus
Our lectionary reading comes from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12. Jesus is preaching in the temple and there is a very large crowd. Among the crowd there are also the teachers of the Law and the Scribes. In our verse selection, Jesus points out that the Scribes love the attention that they receive. They love being looked at. They love putting on their robes and vestments. They love showing off and they love their high position of status and acclaim.
Scribes are prominent and successful. They teach and transcribe Torah. In addition, they act as lawyers and handlers of finances. Jesus tells us that these Scribes ‘devour widows’ houses.’ The reason why the text says this is because Scribes charged a tremendous amount of money to advise and council on finances for widows. Scribes would exploit the widows who were in vulnerable positions for their own financial gain.
Jesus states that because the Scribes are not only in positions of high status, authority and teaching, but also in their financial successes, they will be held accountable to a higher standard than someone who does not have these high honors and privilege.
In modern day, we can equate the Scribes to pastors, elected officials, and powerful leaders who love to be in the spotlight. They love attention and acclaim. They love their seats of power and prominence more than they love God and others. What’s striking is that it is these kinds of people who Jesus explicitly condemns and he views this behavior as unacceptable.
The text goes on to tell us about a poor widow who gives to the treasury in the temple. Others are giving too. They’re giving large sums of money, but there is something special about this woman. She’s so special that Jesus stops what he is paying sole attention to her. He calls over the disciples to pay attention to her as well. In contrast to the other givers who give from their abundance, this poor widow gives to the treasury the last money she has. It is only worth two cents, it tells us in the text. But, Jesus tells us and the disciples, that what this woman gives is of more value than what all the other people gave. This is because she gave out of her lack, or, she gave out of her poverty. What she did required much more faith and trust than all of the other people who were giving something that would not make them uncomfortable or make them lose their wealth.
When leaders in the church as well as political leaders with high status want us to pay attention to their supreme sermons, or read and buy their books, or vote for them, or praise them, and honor them, Jesus says, “NO.” We are to revere God and we are to revere those like the woman who gave all that she had from her lack. We are to hold people like her in places of prominence. We are to uphold the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and rejected and we are to do it publicly (as Jesus does in the Temple).
Take heart when you are exploited, when you have no status, no privilege, and are in need. You are the one Jesus is paying attention to. You are the one he is uplifting. You are his beloved. Put your trust in him, because the systems that oppress you will fail. Jesus’ love surpasses all.
Grace and Peace,
Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons