• Jack Selcher

Sacrifice Brings Praise

Either-or-thinking is inadequate. In Mark 12:35–37 Jesus asked how the scribes could say that the Messiah was the son of David. He didn’t question whether the Messiah was really David’s son. He was. But in what sense? Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 to detour His hearers from how they normally thought about the Messiah. He emphasized that David in that psalm called the Messiah “my Lord.” Jesus’ point is that the Messiah is both David’s son and his Lord.

Beware of knee-jerk either-or explanations. It’s natural to think that either God is sovereign and in control of every situation or that people are totally responsible for their actions. The Bible teaches that God is in control and that people are responsible for their actions. I don’t pretend to understand it. Truth can be very complex. One God in three persons is another example. Sometimes error seems more rational, logical, and simpler than the truth. But it’s still error.

Pretense brings judgment (Mark 12:38–40). People excel at twisting God’s good gifts for evil purposes. One can use God’s gift of a good mind to understand and teach the Scriptures to bring glory to God or to bring glory to self. The latter is a temptation for those who hold positions of spiritual responsibility. Jesus condemned Jewish religious leaders who taught the Scriptures (the Old Testament) because they loved the honor and glory that went with their religious uniforms.

One year in junior high school basketball I wore number 30 with great pride. Two years earlier one of the greatest athletes in the history of my school had worn the same jersey. He did a much better job in it than I did, but I was proud to wear it anyway. The teachers of the Law wore their long white lined robes with the same spirit that I wore number 30.

Pride glories in self. It’s competitive. You’re not proud because you’re rich. You’re proud because you’re richer than someone else. Comparing yourself with others is pride breathing. Through pride you commit idolatry and deceive yourself at the same time. You live as though you, not God, were the be-all and end-all of the universe. In what areas of life are you prone to compare yourself with others? Do you consider yourself superior to others spiritually? God strongly condemns those who use Christianity to exalt or serve themselves.

In Mark 12:41-44 we find a sharp contrast with the scribes’ pretended righteousness. A generous widow teaches us that wholehearted devotion to God brings praise. She plunked two very small coins into a trumpet-shaped container in the Temple treasury. Together they were worth less than one cent.

If everyone in your church gave similarly, ministry could multiply significantly. Her gift represented total commitment to God. She gave all she had. God’s concern isn’t how much you give, but how much it costs you. Sacrifice brings God’s praise. Large gifts don’t necessarily. In view of God’s praise for the widow’s gift, tithing isn’t the ultimate standard for giving.

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Photo NT163.Widow's Mite | Bible drawings by Otto Semler and other… | Flickr

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