Mark 12:38-44. Dependant on whom? By Roger Atze
Here in this reading God gives us a very important teaching as we go forward in life. There is a very important lesson in the comparison between those rich church leaders and the poor widow that we need to remember as we live out our lives every day. The Christian life today, as it has been throughout the centuries, is strewn with well-respected, pious, good-living people, who are even active in their church, but whom here, Jesus warns us to watch out for: and whom will be punished most severely. Then he highlights the attitude of the poor widow, as that which we are to have as we go about life in our world and if we are to receive Godâ€™s blessing.
Now we are on a journey that will be a constant struggle for us if we take our Christian faith seriously.
We have a society around us, and a human nature, that seeks to focus on self and what we do, and there is an attitude of self-dependence and self-promotion that is seen by the world as vitally important. Yet, here in this reading, along with many others, God warns that this attitude leads to disaster.
Think of this poor widow, she had nothing; well a few cents in terms of todayâ€™s finances, and that was all. It is quite likely that she was one of those widows that Jesus mentions here who had her house taken away from her by the wealthy leaders. She had nothing. She was old; a widow, no money; and no welfare system, and by worldly standards, no hope. She had no way to get on in life, from a human perspective; and yet the implications here are that she is blessed: that she is the one who God favours. Because she does not seek to stand in Godâ€™s presence, on her goodness, but is entirely dependent on him. The question that arises for us then is,
Does God let her down?
Let us remember todayâ€™s Old Testament lesson, of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. God was true to his word there, and I am sure that he was also to the widow in the temple. Even if the very worst possible happened to her after she left that temple; we know that she was blest, because she trusted that her life was in Godâ€™s hands and that he would take her to heaven.
So we can see that it is not wealth and status that makes us right and acceptable to God. It is not a matter of how good or bad that we are. Nor how high up in the church we might be, or how good our feelings or even knowledge may be. It is clearly a matter of on whom we are focussed and dependant: On God, or on ourselves and what the world promises us. Are we going to trust in our money, good status, feelings, numbers and the like or are we prepared to look to God alone for our help and salvation.
Now how do we go about this? How can we see to it that we keep our focus on Jesus and not get side-tracked and led into disaster?
First and foremost, we need to remember that we are sinful and that anything short of perfection is just not good enough. We constantly need to hear Godâ€™s word of law so that we can see that we have fallen short, and need help from outside of ourselves. To do that we need to attend worship regularly, because the world out there will try to shift the focus; blame someone else; and try to say that it is not so bad; you are doing a good job and you are moving up the ladder. But God and his word tells us that we donâ€™t measure up: we are just not good enough and never will be.
Knowing then, that we are sinful, we constantly need to be reminded:
Firstly, despite our sinfulness we have been baptised into Godâ€™s family and so he is happy to be with us.
Secondly, if we confess our sinsâ€™ God forgives us all our sins;
Thirdly, we need to be constantly reminded that Jesus Christ is our only assurance of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation; and in Holy Communion, we hear â€˜given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sinsâ€™. There we have the news that enables us to go forward with confidence to look to God; to depend on him; to listen to him; and to survive in a world full of temptation and evil.
Lastly we need to be reminded that the â€˜The Lord blesses us and keep us, the Lord makes his face shine on us and is gracious to us. The Lord looks with favour on us and gives us peaceâ€™.
With all of that, then we can depend fully on our God. So let us go from here today watchful, but confident. Looking first and foremost to our God, and seeking to rely on him, throughout our lives.
In our giving and our living, we will be like the widow in our reading, knowing that we are fully dependant on our God for our life and our salvation. Through our life and our life together, may all glory then go to our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: To him alone be all praise and glory, now and always.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.