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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 4, 2018
The last few weeks we have been studying Matthew 23 and Jesus’ last public teaching in which He warned the people about the religious leaders for their ungodliness, condemned those same religious leaders for their hypocrisy, and then lamented the hard hearted response to His teaching.
Jesus’ warning is one that still needs to be heeded in our own time when we come across those who claim to be religious leaders but are characterized as Jesus’ describes here. Among the qualities a false religious leader may have are: 1) They claim authority for themselves. 2) They make hypocritical demands of their followers. 3) They are loveless and uncaring. 4) They make pretentious displays of their piety, and 5) They are proud and arrogant. While some of these characteristics are also just signs of immaturity, those who are immature should not be in positions of leadership in the church. Be aware and be careful of those who have any of these characteristics. (See: Warnings against Pseudo Piety & Pride)
Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees is seen even in the names He called them as He pronounced woes upon them – hypocrites, sons of hell, blind guides, serpents and a brood of vipers. The reasons He gives for pronouncing these woes give us additional characteristics of false religious leaders. Hypocrisy, pretending to be something they were not, is the main characteristic manifested for they proved to be the opposite of what they claimed. Their doctrine shut the gates to heaven in the face of those that wanted to go there. They robbed the helpless of their incomes and homes. Their converts became twice as self righteous as they were – twice as much sons of hell. They were liars who could not be trusted. They failed to keep major aspects of the law such as justice, mercy & faithfulness. They had hearts of robbers and were self-indulgent. They were just as murderous as their forefathers who killed the prophets for they were plotting to murder Jesus and they would slander, persecute and murder those Jesus sent in the future. (See: Seven Woes to Spiritual Hypocrites)
Pay attention and beware for false teachers and religious charlatans are all around. Do not let Jesus’ lament be applied to you. Learn and follow Jesus’ teaching and take His warnings to heart and stay away from those who are like these scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. (See: The Savior’s Lament)
The gospel accounts of Mark and Luke summarize what Matthew records in detail. However, their shortened versions specifically point out the pretentious piety of the scribes and Pharisees and their devouring widow’s houses. Both accounts then contrast that to the widow Jesus’ points out to His disciples before He leaves the Temple for the last time. They proved to be hypocrites despite all their public religious displays. This widow calls no attention to herself, but her actions demonstrate true piety. Turn to Mark 12:41-44 which gives a little more detail than the parallel account in Luke 21:1-4.
Mark 12:41-44, 41And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
The Temple was separated into several court areas. The outer most one was the Court of the Gentiles were people from all nations could come to pray to the Lord. That is the area from which one day prior Jesus drove out the merchants and money-changers. The next inner area was called the Court of the Women because that was as far as the women could enter. It was also a common area of worship for all the Jewish people. Along three sides of the perimeter of this court was a simple colonnade. Against a wall were thirteen different chests or “trumpets” for collecting contributions. These chests were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom and looked like a trumpet standing on end and hence their name. Nine of these were for collecting the required offerings and the “temple tax.” The other four were for voluntary gifts. The area these chests were located was called the treasury, which is the name used for it in Mark 12:41.
Jesus had been challenged by the chief priests and elders of the people as soon as He came into the Temple and began to teach that morning (Matthew 21:23). This was probably in the Court of the Gentiles since it is the largest area and open to everyone. Whether any of His further confrontations with the Herodians (Matthew 22:15-22), the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33), the lawyer (Matthew 22:43-40) or the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41-23:39) took place in the Court of the Women or the Court of Israel is not stated. Jesus’ antagonists left Him at the conclusion of their confrontations with Him. It would appear that Jesus has now moved to a different location since Mark 12:41 begins this section stating that Jesus has sat down opposite the treasury which was in the Court of the Women. He appears to be by Himself since He has to call His disciples to Him in verse 43.
It was probably refreshing to get a break from the intense confrontations He has been having that day, so He sits down and starts observing what is going on around Him. It was not hard for Him to take notice of the rich people placing in large sums of money. Jesus had commented in the Sermon on the Mount about the practice of some of these kinds of people saying in Matthew 6:2, “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” These people called attention to themselves as they gave because they wanted people to see what they were giving and they wanted the praise of those people.
The same sort of thing certainly exists today since people like to be recognized and praised for their charitable donations. Many organizations, including Christian ones, have various means to provide that recognition. If you will contribute to them at some particular level, they will put your name on something so that other people will know how generous you have been. It could be as simple as publishing it in their newsletter, inscribing your name in a paving brick, or some sort of wall display, and if enough, they might even name the building after you. While I certainly will not complain about being generous and contributing to charitable causes, for that is something good and I encourage it, I do want to make sure it is clearly understood that such actions done to receive the praise of men are not acts of piety for they are not true worship of God. If you want it to be an act of worship, then do it without fanfare. Don’t call attention to yourself. Do it anonymously in secret if you can, for Jesus taught the Father would reward such charity (Matthew 6:3-4).
The poor widow that came in was quite a contrast to these rich people that were flaunting their wealth. Mark 12:42 records that while Jesus was observing, “And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.” You can imagine her coming in and doing the opposite of the rich people. They were trying to get noticed and she was trying to be inconspicuous. Yet Jesus was watching how the people were putting their money into the treasury, so He saw and knew just what she had done.
This was an important lesson, so Mark 12:43-44 records, “And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” This was a lesson on true piety demonstrated in giving and trust.
Piety is the quality of being devoutly religious, being reverent toward God and devoted to worshiping Him. The religious leaders of that time portrayed themselves as pious, and while they were devout in their religious system, they were not reverent toward God and their worship of Him was false. They were the opposite of this poor widow who demonstrated true devotion, reverence toward God and true worship of Him.
James 1:27 states, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Why are these two things undefiled religion? First, to help orphans and widows in distress is true charity. They have no resources in themselves and no family to help, so they have no means by which to repay you. To help such people is a pure form of fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as yourself, for there can be no expectations to receive anything in return. Second, to keep unstained from the world can only be done by a sincere and diligent effort to pursue holiness by resisting the pressure of the world, denying self, and being obedient to God’s precepts and commands. All of those things are part of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
This simple act of giving by this poor widow demonstrated her desire to please the Lord and trust Him. It was a true act of worship. It is specifically pointed out that she gave two leptovV / leptos, a small copper or bronze coin, which together was worth 1 kodravthvV / kodrant s or 1/64 of a denarius. A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer, and this was 1.5625% of that amount, and that was “all she owned, all she had to live on.” She was destitute, yet she wanted give what she had to the Lord, so she put it in the treasury box for voluntary offerings. She would have to trust the Lord to provide for her needs.
She was a living example of putting into practice what Jesus had taught in the Sermon on the Mount about trusting the Lord instead of worrying. He commanded in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The “all these things” was food, drink and clothing, the necessities of life most people worried about. Paul advised Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Such contentment can only be present if you trust God to provide for your needs. The prophet Isaiah declared, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
How did Jesus know this was all this woman owned and had to live on? The same way He knew that she was a widow. While it is possible Jesus had met her before and therefore learned about her, Jesus is also God in human flesh and had demonstrated omniscience many times. Nathanael recognized this from that fact that Jesus knew His character without having met him before (John 1:47-49). Jesus healed the man with the withered hand because “He knew what they were thinking” (Luke 6:8). Jesus could tell professional fishermen where to let the nets down to get a large catch (Luke 5:4-10) or catch a specific fish that would have a shekel in its mouth to pay the poll-tax (Matthew 17:27). Jesus knew the timing and manner of His death and resurrection long before they occurred (Matthew 16:21). Peter relied on Jesus’ omniscience when he was questioned about his love for Him (John 21:17). We can trust what Jesus says even about small details for He, as His disciples declared in John 16:30, “knows all things.”
You can take comfort in this truth, for it means that Jesus also knows everything about you. Jesus said in Luke 12:7 that even “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” The One who keeps watch on the sparrow also keeps watch on you. The widow could trust the Lord, so can you.
Piety in Giving – Mark 12:43-44
This widow is also an example of the principles of piety in giving for she is the contrast to the Pharisees and hypocrites who called attention to themselves when they would put large amounts in the Temple treasury. Looking at verses 43-44 again, Jesus said “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
The Pharisees and hypocrites thought they were pious because of the large amounts they were putting into the treasury, but Jesus points out that this poor widow gave an extremely small amount and then states that it was more than all the rest. That contrast signifies the difference between the way man looks at things and the way that God sees them. As the Lord said to Samuel after rejecting Saul as king, “. . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7) What was true in regards to kings is also true in regards to God’s view of giving.
People tend to judge piety in charity by the amount given. That is why James 2:1-7 gives a rebuke about showing favoritism to the wealthy. Christians are not to behave as the world behaves because we are to be developing in the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). God looks at the heart and that includes giving offerings. Take note that God does not need your money because He already owns everything. There is nothing you can give Him that does not already belong to Him. That includes your life for even it is on loan to you the few years you walk this earth. Giving is to be an act of worship on your part. It is not done to impress others as Jesus points out here. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-10 Paul stresses the fact that giving is not to be done out of necessity, grudgingly or by compulsion either, but instead, it is to be done cheerfully as you purpose in your own heart.
I quickly add that this is the reason we use the Faith Box in the back of the church instead of passing offering plates. It helps us to fulfill 2 Corinthians 9:7 by removing the sense of compulsion or obligation that is often part of passing an offering basket. It also helps in allowing you to give in an inconspicuous manner like the widow instead of a flaunting manner like the rich hypocrites Jesus had talked about. We do not want to contribute in anyway to someone who might want to make a show of what they give. What you give is between you and God, and He knows your heart.
Piety in giving is about worship. It is about trusting Him to supply your needs as you worship and obey Him. That is the basis for the idea of sowing and reaping sparingly or bountifully in 2 Corinthians 9:6. I can trust God to meet my needs and I give of my time and talents because I want to see Him glorified. The principle of sowing and reaping is not about gaining a large material return on “seed faith” investment contrary to the teaching of the health, wealth and prosperity preachers. That heretical idea only reveals the greed in both those proclaiming it and the people giving because of it. God’s greatest blessings are not material anyway.
Piety in giving then is not about large sums, but in giving sacrificially. It is giving in such a manner that you will be affected by it. The reward for giving out of your abundance is small, but the reward for giving out of your livelihood is great because it requires greater trust and dependence upon the Lord.
How much should a person give? The examples of godly people in Scripture range from 10% by Abraham to 100%, by this poor widow, but there is no Scriptural requirement for the Christian to give any particular percentage. Again, from the principles of 2 Corinthians 9, it must be as you purpose in your heart, and you must be able to give gratefully and cheerfully because of what the Lord has done for you. Don’t give anything beyond what can be given with those good attitudes. God does not need your money and He has promised to supply our needs. Work out the problem in your heart first, and then give as an act of worship in true piety.
Let me quickly add this additional principle. You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart. Giving is simply a reflection of your heart. What is your love for God? What is your love for the things of this world? Are you seeking after the kingdom of God or you own kingdom? Are you learning to trust God for your future, or are you still relying on your own resources and abilities?
Since this widow woman is a contrast in true piety compared to the false pretentious piety of the hypocrites, let me point out some additional characteristics of true piety. There is much that could be said about each of these characteristics and there are more than I list, but my purpose this morning is only to set them in contrast to the false religious leaders of that time and those similar to them today, so I will be brief on each point.
I will begin with humility because I personally think that it is the beginning point and the key to all the rest of the characteristics of true piety. God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble, and it is by His grace alone that any person can be saved (James 4:6; Ephesians 2:8). It was the humble tax collector that cried out to God for mercy that went home justified instead of the proud Pharisee that “prayed thus to himself” (Luke 18:10-14). Humility begins with a recognition of both your sinfulness and the holiness of your Creator so that you cry out to Him for mercy, for you know that you deserve nothing but His judgment and condemnation, and there is no hope of salvation from that except that He provides it. This is the poverty of spirit and mourning Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-4).
From out of His love, God does provide that salvation in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that the sinner is redeemed, forgiven and justified by faith in the Savior, then indwelt by the Holy Spirit, adopted into God’s family, and assured Heaven will be his home.
Humility also reflects Jesus who humbled Himself to become a man, live a sinless life, then die as the substitute payment for man’s sins (Philippians 2:5-11). That is the example Christians are to follow in their own lives as they strive to be like Him. Matthew 11:29 tells us that Jesus was gentle and humble of heart, and so we should be also.
The worldly follow the path of pride in their quest for success, but the godly recognize the opposite that it is humility that is the key to true success. What good is fame, fortune and position of success if it costs you your soul? (Mark 8:36). Besides, Jesus stated it clearly that “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). The humble are content to follow the command of 1 Peter 5:6 to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand and leave it up to Him to exalt them at the proper time. But more important, the purpose of all life is to bring glory to its Creator and that includes man. The humble desire to do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) because they desire God’s glory over their own. That leads to the next characteristic.
Submissive to God
The pious are submissive to God because they recognize that He is the ultimate authority and that all legitimate authority extends from Him. Humility itself will prevent claiming authority for themselves, but beyond that, the pious would not want to pervert God’s line of authority. Their desire and prayer is for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven and to submit their will to it.
This quality is also known as meekness, but meek is not weak, for it is power under control. Moses was the meekest man in all the earth, yet he faced down Pharaoh who was one the most powerful men on earth at that time. Moses was able to do extraordinary things because he was in submission to God and obeyed His commands. The same principle can and should apply in your own life as you place yourself under God’s authority to carry out His will. The life of faith is one of stepping out in obedience and trusting Him for the outcome. Meekness plus humility produces servant leaders.
Jesus taught His disciples that there were not to be like the Gentiles whose rulers lord it over their subjects. Instead, they were to be leaders who served, for that was His own example in coming to serve instead of being served and to give His life a ransom for all (Mark 10:42-45). This is beyond a leader working among and alongside those under his authority, but of going the next step to being the example and helping them accomplish the work.
The apostle Peter understood this and so he wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-3, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”
Only the humble who entrust themselves to God can lead as a servant. It can be done because the goal is the glory of God and helping one another become like Jesus and not personal glory.
Loving and Caring
Those who are truly pious are also truly loving and caring of others. They take to heart Jesus’ command to love others as He has loved them (John 13:34) with that love even extended to enemies (Matthew 4:44). They also take to heart Paul’s command in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Piety also makes a person reticent, that is, adverse to calling attention to himself. Since the goal is to have God’s name hallowed and glorified, the pious do not want to hinder that in anyway. They want less and less attention on themselves and more on Jesus just as John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This can be difficult at times for those who are often in front of large groups of people because such attention feeds the ego, but those with true piety will fight against it instead of seeking it.
The quality of being trustworthy involves being true, honest and sincere. True piety is without pretense or guile. The pious are to be the same in public or private and in all situations. They do not have a hidden agenda or ulterior motives, so they neither lie nor deceive. You can believe them because they say what they mean and mean what they say. This quality alone sets the pious apart from the majority of humanity for Proverbs 20:6 remarks, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?” This is not an option for Christians for we are to be servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel, and stewards are to be trustworthy (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
The pious are naturally evangelistic because they want other people to know the good news of Jesus Christ so that they can repent of their sins and find new life in Him. Because they are true, honest and sincere as just mentioned, they do this without the marketing gimmicks so often used in American Christianity. The truth is spoken with love, but the whole truth is proclaimed including the warnings of God’s judgment upon the unrepentant. They neither use bait and switch techniques to attract people nor business models in trying to boost income and attendance. Their heart for the gospel is the same as Paul’s in not being ashamed of it, being eager and under compulsion to exclaim it, and being careful and diligent to proclaim it accurately without distortion (Romans 1:15-16, 1 Corinthians 9:16; Galatians 1).
Charitable / Generous
Piety will also be exhibited in being generous and charitable, for a heart of love for God and others will expend itself in compassion to those in need. Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan to illustrate this love for neighbors. An example of this love is Tabitha in Acts 9 who abounded in deeds of kindness and charity. It is also seen in the Macedonians who, though in deep poverty themselves, begged Paul for the favor of contributing to the collection he was making for the needs of the Saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). John uses this to challenge an individual’s profession of faith writing in 1 John 3:17-18, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
Just, Merciful, Faithful
The last characteristic of piety I want to discuss today is the contrast to the Pharisees being meticulous to tithe herbs while neglecting the weightier provisions of the law including justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23-24). Jesus rebuked them saying, “but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Piety is demonstrated in striving to live according to God’s priorities. While that may not always be easy to discern, it is not hard to figure out that justice, mercy and faithfulness are of major importance and that tithing spices is of minor importance. Passages such as Micah 6:8 make clear God’s priorities – “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Then there is Jesus’ answer to question, What commandment is the foremost of all? To which Jesus replied, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31). While the lesser are still to be done, the priority of time and effort is placed on keeping the greater commandments first.
The poor widow proved to be a stark contrast with the scribes and Pharisees about the true nature of piety. She is the example to follow.
5 Characteristics of false religious leaders: 1) Self-proclaimed authority. 2) Hypocritical demands.
3) Loveless & uncaring. 4) Pretentious displays of piety. 5) Proud & arrogant
Jesus labeled the scribes & Pharisees as __________, sons of hell, blind guides, serpents & a brood of vipers
They kept people from heaven; robbed widows; created self-righteous disciples; were liars; failed to keep God’s laws on justice, mercy & faithfulness; were robbers & self-indulgent; plotted murderer
___________, false teachers abound – don’t let Jesus’ lament be applied to you
Mark & Luke use the example of the poor widow as a stark __________to the scribes & Pharisees
The Temple has several court areas with the “Treasury” being just inside the Court of Women
After Jesus dealing with a series of confrontations, Jesus sits down ___________the treasury
He observes the flaunting ___________of the rich as the put in their money – see Matthew 6:2
It is still common today for people to want to be recognized and ____________for their acts of charity
If you want God’s reward for acts of charity, then do it for Him instead of seeking the praise of _______
She was the opposite of the rich who wanted to be notice, she was trying to _________________
She is an example of ____________(devout, reverent, worshipful) demonstrated I giving and trust
James 1:27 – ________ and undefiled religion
Charity to the destitute is a ________form of fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as yourself
Keeping unstained from the world is part of loving _______with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
She gave all she owned and had to live on in an act of true ___________trusting God for her own needs
Piety in Giving – Mark 12:43-44
The contrast between the widow & the Pharisees signifies the difference between the _______of man & God
People judge piety in giving by the amount – and James 2:1-7 is a ___________of favoritism to the wealthy
God looks at your heart – your _______________- for giving regardless of the amount
2 Cor. 9:6-10 – giving is to be done ________as you purpose in your heart, not grudgingly or of compulsion
Piety is demonstrated in ______________God as you worship and obey Him
Those who teach “sowing and reaping” as a “seed faith” investment for material return are ________heretics
Piety is demonstrated in _______________giving that trusts God
Scriptural ______________of giving range from 10% by Abraham to 100% by the poor widow
Don’t give beyond what you can do cheerfully as an act of worship – change your __________to give more
Nothing you handle is ____________significant than money nor more revealing of your heart
Additional Characteristics of Piety
Humble: the beginning point and ______________for all other characteristics
The world promotes pride as the key to success while the pious see ___________as the key – Matthew 23:12
Submissive to God: in recognition He is the ultimate __________and all legitimate authority extends from Him
Their desire and prayer is for God’s _______be done on earth as it is in heaven and to submit their will to it.
The _________can do extraordinary things because they are in submission to God and obey His commands
Servant Leadership: Christian leaders are to follow __________example (Mark 10:42-45)
1 Peter 5:1-3 – instructions to elders. Only the ________who entrust themselves to God can lead as a servant
Reticent: they are _____________to calling attention to themselves
The pious want God to be glorified and do not want to _________or take away from that
Trustworthy: True, ___________and sincere, without pretense or guile, lie or deceit
Evangelistic: they want people to know the good news of Jesus Christ to they can __________and be saved
They proclaim the gospel, speaking all of the ___________in love, without marketing gimmicks
Charitable / Generous: a heart of love for God and others will _________itself in compassion to those in need
1 John 3:17-18 – Without this characteristic, a profession to _________God is questionable
Just, Merciful, Faithful – keeps God’s ___________
Conclusions: The poor widow is a stark contrast to the scribes and Pharisees – she is the ___________to follow
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times references are made to the widow. 2) Discuss with your parents how her example demonstrates true piety.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the significance of the “Treasury” in the Temple and why was Jesus observing it? What is the contrast between the rich and the poor widow? Why does Jesus say she gave more than all the contributors when the amount was so small? What is piety and how does the widow exhibit it? What principles should direct your giving? What are some other characteristics of true piety that would be a contrast to the Pharisees? Explain your answers / observations.
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