Religion and Its Victims (Mark 12:38-44)

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For this morning, I want you to turn to the
twelfth chapter of Mark and we’ll wrap up the end of this twelfth chapter. Now if what I say to you sounds a little bit
familiar, it’s because in the year 2007, about March of that year, that would be four years
ago exactly, we were at this same point in the ministry of Jesus in the gospel of Luke…in
the gospel of Luke. So what we were reading and understanding
in Luke, we now come to in Mark. We will remember, those of us who were here
four years ago, this passage, Luke’s version of it which is parallel to Mark’s. You’ll discover that when I read it to you. Verse 38, in His teaching He was saying, “Beware
of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and like respectful greetings in
the marketplaces and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour
widows’ houses and for appearances sake who offer long prayers, these will receive greater
condemnation. And 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. A poor widow came and put in two small copper
coins which amount to a cent. 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.'” Some of you will remember four years ago when
we talked about the story of the widow who gave her last two cents and we’re going to
listen to that again and capture its true meaning. But first, we need to look at our Lord’s warning
about false teachers in verses 38 through 40. Suffice it to say for all of us who are students
of Scripture, we’re very aware of the fact that there have always been and always will
be false teachers, lying prophets, religious deceivers and corrupt preachers who claim
to represent God but actually represent Satan who claim to bring the way of heaven and actually
paved the way to hell, who claim to speak divine truth and actually speak satanic lies,
doctrines of demons. Scripture warns us about this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. He told his first lie in the Garden which
led to the fall of the human race. He continues to perpetrate lies through demons
and his agents, hypocritical liars, they are called by Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 4. They propagate all that is false and all that
is not true is false, and all that is not of God is of Satan. There is no middle ground. All that is true is true and all that is not
true is false. There is no middle ground. So that, if a religious person is espousing
anything that is not true, it is a satanic lie. It is intended to deceive and to damn the
souls of its victims. So there have always been false teachers and
always been liars and deceivers. And mark this out, they are all hypocrites. They are all hypocrites. They define the very concept of hypocrite,
they are fakes. They claim to show the way of truth and the
way of God and the way to heaven and the way to well-being and the way to blessing, but
they lie. There is only one way, the true gospel. And every other way is a false way and a damning
way, part of the broad way that leads to hell. In the time of our Lord in Israel, the agents
of hell were in charge of the religion of Judaism. It was an apostate form of Judaism as any
form of Judaism is today, and that apostate form of Judaism was under the control of Satan
and in the hands of hypocrites who were the pawns of Satan and the human representatives
of demonic powers. They were not perceived to be so by the people,
however. The people saw the Sadducees, the Pharisees,
the scribes, the priests, the rabbis as the representatives of God, the agents of God,
the divinely appointed and implanted arbiters of divine truth to the people. They were viewed as devout. They were viewed as respected and responsible. They were the shepherds of Israel from the
perspective of the people and from their perspective they wanted to be sure that the people saw
them that way because it satisfied their cravings for popularity, for power, for prestige and
especially for money…especially for money, because false teachers always do what they
do for money. The Bible says they’re in it for filthy lucre’s
sake. So you have the leaders of Israel who pretend
to worship God. They pretend to serve God. They pretend to honor God with their lives. They pretend to lead people into the will
of God and into the knowledge of God, when actually they are producing sons of hell because
they themselves are sons of hell. And if there’s any question about that, then
you need only to know that while they are claiming to honor God, they are bent on murdering
the Son of God. All false teachers, all purveyors of false
religion are the enemies of Christ and the enemies of truth and enemies of the gospel
and the enemies of souls. Now the religious leaders of Israel were a
conglomeration that composed a group called the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, 70 members
plus the High Priest, that group was supposed to be representative and to some degree it
was, made up of the Sadducees, the religious liberals, the Pharisees, the religious conservatives
who basically dominated the religion of the day. There were among the Pharisees predominantly
scribes who were experts in the Law, interpreters of the Law, appliers of the Law. And then there were assorted priests. There were also assorted teachers and rabbis
and they were varying in their views. The rabbis and teachers would attach themselves
to this rabbi or that rabbi in the past, so there were differences in the way they viewed
things, so they were divided on many things, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were actually
enemies, theologically, and they, however, with all their diversity and all their differences
to get together in one universal, cohesive, united effort to kill Jesus. Whatever they disagreed on among themselves,
they all agreed that Jesus was a threat to their power and their prominence and their
prestige and their place. It is Wednesday, as we pick up the story,
of Passion Week, the final week of our Lord’s life. On Friday they will manage to get Him crucified. They will do that only because it is the predetermined
will of God. But from their viewpoint it is their will
against God. So in going against God, they actually in
their vile efforts accomplish the will of God. But this is still Wednesday and it’s been
a long day…a long day, starting very early in the morning when Jesus came into the city
with His disciples and saw the cursed fig tree dead along the road which was a symbol
of the cursing of the temple and the cursing of the people and the nation. Jesus went directly to the temple and spent
the whole day Wednesday preaching the gospel according to Luke and teaching things concerning
salvation and the kingdom. It was a long, long day. As He moved, like rabbis do, kind of a floating
classroom in the massive courtyards of the temple, He was confronted by the Sanhedrin
in waves they came at Him. First a group of Pharisees with the Herodians
came. Then the Sadducees came. And then it was a scribal question that confronted
Him as they tried to trap Him in His words and get Him to say something that would cause
the Jews to turn against Him, or even more importantly the Romans to arrest Him because
He would present Himself as a threat to Roman peace. Obviously the Romans knew He was drawing massive
crowds. And if they could get Him to say something
that might look like the beginning of an insurrection, the Romans would arrest Him and they would
prevail upon the Romans to kill Him. That was the plan. However, He thwarted their plan every time,
no matter what wave came, no matter what question was asked, He gave an answer that caused them
to leave Him in silence and in shock. And so verse 34 says, “After that, no one
would venture to ask Him any more questions.” The questioning from the standpoint of the
leaders was done, it was an unsuccessful series of traps. They would have to do it another way. As it turned out, they would. They would bribe Judas and you know how the
story unfolds from there. We’ll see that as we go. It is clear to our Lord, it is clear, I’m
sure, to some of the people that their leaders were corrupt. I’m convinced that when Jesus wiped out the
corrupt businesses in the temple on Tuesday of that week, that many of the people were
attracted to Him because of that, because they knew the corruption. They knew they were paying ten times the price
they should pay for a sacrificial animal. They knew they were…they were getting bilked
in the exchange of coins when they brought their temple tax offering. They understood the charlatanism and the robbery
that was going on there, and Jesus even said, “This is My Father’s house, it’s to be a house
of prayer, you turned it into a robber’s den. I don’t think that drove the people away. I think that drew the people to it. They could see some of the corruption of the
system, even though they couldn’t extract themselves from it, and they were bound to
it by lifelong commitments to what they had been taught. And now, as we approach our text, the people
are listening. The end of verse 37 says, “The large crowd
enjoyed listening to Him.” Luke 20 verse 45, the parallel passage says,
“All the people were listening…all the people.” And then it says, “He said to His disciples…”
so around Him are the disciples, but beyond them, that immediate group gathered around
Him, the Apostles and whatever assorted disciples were there, the whole crowd, the massive crowd
in the temple is listening to Him. By the way, when Luke says all the people
were listening, but He said this to His disciples…that’s a transition…that’s a transition, because
after He says this in verses 38 to 40, to everybody, from here on out He speaks only
to His disciples, as verse 43 indicates, calling His disciples to Him He said. So this is the final word to the crowds. The rest is going to be for the disciples. The sad note here, not only have the leaders
gone away for the moment in shame and silence, thwarted in their efforts, but the people
have never moved from their superficial interest in Him to a real and genuine faith in Him
and so He is really through talking to them as well. These are then His last words publicly…His
last words publicly. Verse 38 to 44, very strong words and very,
very condemning words. Our Lord’s final words to Israel, “Regard
their religious leaders and expose their religious leaders for what they are. They are corrupt hypocrites. And He warns the people of their damning influence.” It isn’t the first time He’s characterized
them this way. If you go back to Matthew 15:14, you remember
on that occasion Jesus basically described them as blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind are leading the blind, everybody
ends up in the ditch. So they have been warned by Him about their
leaders. And the main purveyors of religion in the
land were the Pharisees and the scribes. And so they’re the ones who take the brunt
of this attack. Now the words “regarding them” are brief in
Mark, verses 38 to 40, just those three verses. They’re somewhat brief in Luke’s gospel, just
a few verses there. But the full statement is given by Matthew
in Matthew 23 and it goes on for 36 verses. So you have the full denunciation of these
apostate hypocrites in Matthew. We’ll make a couple of references to Matthew’s
account because that is where you get the full message. Now suffice it to say that this is a warning
because it begins, “Beware.” That’s the caution. This is a condemnation about to come on those
who have a corrupt view of Scripture because they do, a corrupt view of Christ and therefore
a corrupt view of the gospel. Worse, they not only hold wrong views, they
propagate them…they propagate them. This is our Lord speaking to the people publicly
about false teachers. This is Jesus’ take on false teachers and
it is more than sufficient to let us know that there is a zero tolerance policy with
Jesus for false teachers. If someone denies the true meaning of Scripture,
denies the true identity of Christ, and denies the true gospel, that is not a tolerable person. We do not get together with those kind of
people to find out what we hold in common. We do not elevate them because even though
they disagree with us, they are religious and they’re spiritual, and they’re good people
and they’re conscious of God and they believe in one God. Quite the opposite. Our Lord indicates here that rather than welcome
these people, we ought o flee from them because, as Jude put it, if you get too close to them,
your garments will be singed. You need to be rescued from them. Jude says, “Like a branch snatched out of
the burning.” There is a trend and there has been for a
number of years to have a conversation with people who hold different views, to get together
with them and let’s not condemn them, let’s have a conversation with them. That led me to write two books years ago,
one called The Truth War , and a follow up called The Jesus You Can’t Ignore , just to
let people know that when we engage people who teach lies, it is to make war, not peace. And the second one is, you can’t ignore the
Jesus who set the model in that direction. That’s the Christ you can’t ignore. So let’s look at the caution, “Beware of the
scribes. Verse 38, “In His teaching He was saying,
‘Beware of the scribes.'” I am pretty sure that this teaching was going
on over and over again as He moved among the crowds and found different groups of people
and repeated things, but one of His messages and the final one is to beware of the scribes. They are, for the most part, Pharisees. They belong to the Pharisees sect. The Pharisees, as you know, were very, very
concerned about the Law, the Law of the Old Testament Law and the tradition that had grown
up and become a kind of co-source, a co-revelation with the Bible and how all of that was to
be interpreted. These were the legal experts. The Pharisees, of course, were the legalists
and they had within them the scribes who studied the Law. The Jews even had a saying that Moses received
the Law and gave it to Joshua. Joshua received the Law and gave it to the
elders. The elders received the Law and gave it to
the prophets. The prophets received the Law and gave it
to the scribes. So they were the possessors of the Law, the
gatekeepers of all that was supposed to be true about the Word of God. They were the experts in the Law. They were the lawyers of Israel. That was true in religious matters and that
was true in civil matters, and that was true in social matters because they still viewed
themselves as a theocratic kingdom. In other words, everything sort of came down
from God and the way family life was structured and social life was structured and business
life was structured, and worship was structured, all would go back to the Old Testament. So their responsibility was not only interpretation
of the Law, but application of the Law. They were the dominant force then in Judaism,
as lawyers play a dominant force in our life when it comes to all matters legal, so they
did in even far-reaching fashion because they even reached into the religious area. They handled all legal matters for the people,
no matter what kind of things they were, but they all had overtones of spirituality and
they would always convey that a right interpretation was the will of God. The point would be that they were to be the
protectors of the people. They were to show them what God wanted. They were to hold them to the Law of God so
that they could be conformed to the promises of God for blessing upon obedience. That was their role. However, they did the opposite. Our Lord says, “Beware of them…” When you have to beware of your protectors,
you’re in trouble. When you can’t trust the people who are supposed
to show you the truth, and show you what is right, and show you what God wants, you are
really in trouble. They tended to trust those people because
there was no other option, and so they were sucked in by their deception. As a result, in Matthew 23, it is recorded
that Jesus says, “These men who are themselves sons of hell are making sons of hell out of
you.” That’s what they were doing. People had been sucked in by them. So here our Lord warns them, guard against
them, protect yourself against your protectors. Protect yourself against your shepherd. Protect yourself against your pastor. The last thing Jesus would do is encourage
people to establish a dialogue with them. Why are they such a threat? Why are they such a threat? Because they are hypocrites. They are not what they appear to be. They’re sons of hell and they make sons of
hell. From the caution, we’ll call it, we go to
the characterization. Go back to verse 38. He characterizes their hypocrisy in ways that
would be very familiar to the people. By the way, anybody who has a corrupted view
of Christ and the gospel, needs to be exposed in the way Jesus exposed these men. And that’s a merciful act, isn’t it? That’s a merciful act because these are wolves
in sheep’s clothing. The Lord pulls no punches and the main element
is that they are spiritual frauds. What characterizes their false virtue? It’s all external. It’s all external. In Matthew 23 He says that you clean the outside
of the dish and the inside is filthy. He says, “On the outside you’re a whitewashed
tomb. On the inside you’re corrupt, rotting flesh.” So He talks about their fake outside. They like to walk around in long robes. They like to walk around in long robes. These were special robes, scribal robes that
went all the way to the ground, stole is the word from which you get the English word stole,
sometimes referring to a cape that woman wears. But these robes went to the ground. They were fancy and unique and expensive and
they had tassels. The Jews, according to the book of Numbers,
long ago in history, Numbers chapter 15, were to put little blue tassels on the bottom of
their robes to identify themselves as Jews and to identify themselves as those who gave
their attention to God and gave their attention to God’s Word. And so they had those little reminders on
the bottom of their robes that they belonged to God and were accountable to His Word. Well as the centuries passed by, the people
in religious positions decided that these could be the symbols of their glory. And so they enlarged all their tassels. They made them larger and larger, according
to Matthew 23:5. One can only guess how ridiculously large
they became. But it caused people to look at their robes
and assume that they were holy. Their tassels were far larger than anyone
else’s. By the way, our Lord Himself had these tassels
appropriately on His own robe, according to Matthew 9:20. But they had no true holiness of heart, as
was indicated in the book of Numbers, and only symbolized on the outside. They gave no attention to God. They gave no attention to His truth. They were lying deceivers but they wanted
to look the part of holy men and so they enlarged the tassels on their robes. Mark also records for us, the second thing
about they, they liked respectable greetings in the marketplace. Luke says they loved them…they loved them. As they moved about in public life with their
special, fancy, unique, one-of-a-kind, belonging only to their particular sect robe with its
fancy tassels, everybody knew who they were…everyone would know. They expected to be addressed then with titles
of dignity. What were the greetings they expected? If you look at Matthew 23, the Lord even identified
them. First they wanted to be called rabbi, which
means teacher. It actually means like doctor…doctor, exalted
teacher, excellency, most knowledgeable one, great one. And those are phrases you find in Jewish literature
which were used to refer to rabbis, “O great one, O knowledgeable one, O excellent one,
O exalted teacher.” In fact, they were so exalted in their own
minds that it was more punishable to act against the words of a scribe than the words of Scripture. Scripture didn’t fight back, but they did. They also wanted to be called father…father. Source, that’s what that was about. Not only exalted teacher, man of great wisdom,
elevated one, but father, source. And they wanted to be called leader as if
they were the determiners of direction and outcome. That’s what they expected people to call them
when they saw them. They didn’t expect them to say, “Hello, Abraham.” They expected them to say, “O exalted teacher,
father, leader.” We still have a lot of that with us today. Dr. So-and-So, Dr. So-and-So. Father this…Father that…and then every
once in a while someone calls me, Father MacArthur. No, I’m a father, but not in that sense. And then the new…the term leader, leader,
I can see now one of the popular new concepts in the young movement in the young people
in churches now is to be called Lead Pastor. You know, I run from titles. If people ask me what shall we call you? I say John. Jesus was good enough for Jesus, Paul was
good enough for Paul, what do I expect? I’m the lowliest of the law. If I can get John, that’s plenty. But false teachers are never humble. They always need to be elevated. They live with guilty consciences because
their false religion can’t restrain the flesh and it can’t restrain their pride and they’re
self-promoting. Religion is a horrible thing in that regard. We still have these religionists who parade
around in all kinds of crazy garb and wear clerical hats and demand to be called Father,
and Doctor, and Reverend, and Most Holy, and Great Leader. And then it says they love the chief seats
in the synagogue. In the synagogue there was a platform like
there is here, and they loved to sit on the platform. So now you know why I’m called John and I
don’t sit up here. There’s something to be said for that. They wanted to be recognized as elevated above
the people. They wanted to have the places of honor at
banquets. They wanted to be near the host, to be the
center of attention, the most honored, the most revered. In the fourteenth chapter of Luke, you might
remember this, our Lord was very aware of this kind of behavior going on. “He began…verse 7…speaking a parable to
the invited guest when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at
the table.” Jesus went to a dinner and there was this
mad fight to find the place of honor. I just want to tell you something. That is directly related to spirituality. The lack of spirituality means the expansion
of symbolism, okay? The less reality, the more symbol. The more reality, the less symbol. They’re inverse. But when you have nothing on the inside and
only what is on the outside, then symbols will expand and explode. Just watch the Catholic Church sometime. Void of reality, void of spiritual life, the
symbols are just endless, the trappings inside the churches on the priests, the falderal,
the ceremony, it is all inverse to the absence of real spiritual life. That’s the hypocrisy of them, but the key
thing to note right now in verse 40 would be, “They devour widows’ houses.” File that in your mind…they devour widows
houses. That’s just awful. They’re supposed to be the shepherds of the
sheep and if there’s anybody that needs to be protected, who would it be? Widows…widows. Pure religion, James says that you care for
the widows and orphans, that’s Old Testament command reiterated over and over in the Old
Testament. I could take you to 25 or 30 Old Testament
passages starting in Exodus 22 and moving right on through Deuteronomy all the way to
Malachi chapter 3, and all in between and show you how much the Old Testament has to
say about the people of God having responsibility to those who are widows in their midst, to
care for them. What do these men do? They consumed them. That means to plunder them. It means literally to eat them up. How did they do that? Well a little bit of historical study will
provide an answer for that. There are records about how they did it, their
own records, by the way. These false leaders would take support, ask
money from widows for themselves, though that was forbidden. They would cheat widows out of their estate
while they were offering them legal protection. In other words, a widow would have an estate. She would want to make sure that it was secure
and safe. And so she would bring in a scribe to take
care of the legal work to protect her estate. And while pretending to protect her estate,
he would take it. They would mismanage the property of widows. They would abuse the hospitality of widows,
living in their houses, taking up space in their houses, eating their food in a gluttonous
fashion, making excessive demands like leeching off of them. They would take money from older widows with
deficient powers. As the older women lost the ability to reason
and think what was going on, they would steal them blind. Then they would take the house of a widow
in pledge for the debt that they were owed for their legal services. So when the widow died, they would own the
house. Nothing would be left if she had children. They demanded that the widows give to purchase
blessing from God, as they demanded that from everybody in their system. Their whole system was built on the fact you
had to bring your money to the temple. There were thirteen receptacles in the Court
of the Women where you dropped your money. That’s how you purchase your salvation. The rabbi said with alms you purchase your
salvation. The money went in there, it came out the bottom
into the pockets of these religious leaders. The more money that was given, the richer
they got. And the money needed to be given because that’s
how you bought your salvation. So people were literally pouring money into
those places, those receptacles to buy redemption. That is why when our Lord came in He said,
“This is My Father’s house, a house of prayer, and you have made it a den of…what?…of
robbers.” I see that and I wonder how many false evangelists
are doing the very same thing today? Fleecing widows with promises of health and
healing and prosperity and send me your money and God will pour out blessing to you, taking
advantage of the weak, the desperate, the despairing, the lonely, the hopeless, the
helpless. And while they’re such wretched thieves, verse
40 says, “For appearance sake, they offer long prayers.” Huh, for appearance said, they offer long
prayers. They don’t want to really talk to God, they
don’t have anything to say to God. But they’ll string out their prayers so they’ll
appear righteous and holy. Matthew 6, Jesus said their prayers are characterized
by endless repetition, right?… vain repetition, just on and on and on and
on and on and on, we have lots of illustrations of those things that still remain today. It’s all a pretense. It’s all fake. It’s all a sham. It’s all a show. And that is true, dear friends, of all people
in false religion…all of them. That’s what they do, they’re hypocrites. They may do it in different ways, but they
are hypocrites and they are destructive. So our Lord cautions and characterizes. Then He condemns, end of verse 40, “These
will receive greater condemnation.” You know, there are people who think that
if you’re religious you’ll receive less condemnation. Sometimes you hear people say, “Well, I’m
sure…I’m sure that I’m going to go to heaven because I’m a very religious person.” Really! I think hell will be the hottest for religious
people, especially religious false teachers, agents of Satan whose sons of hell themselves
produce more sons of hell. They will receive a greater condemnation,
not a lesser condemnation. Not because they were good or moral, or religious
will they receive less judgment. They will receive more judgment. If you have the idea today that there’s good
in all religions and God loves all religions and we need to find God in all religions and
find the good that is there…Jesus pronounces a greater condemnation on the religious leaders
of Israel who are monotheists who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the
creator God of the Old Testament, but because they had apostatized from the true religion
and come to a self-righteous work system, and because they had rejected Him and the
gospel, they’re hell will be hotter than everybody else. You don’t want to get too close to the truth
because if you’re too close to the truth, the potential for judgment is even greater. How much greater judgment will the one feel…Hebrews
says…who has trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted the blood of the Covenant
an unholy thing? That’s the greatest of all judgment, to reject
Christ. Better you never know Him, hell will be less
furious. The idea is clear, those who are in the wrong
religion will receive the far-greater suffering, the far-greater damnation because of that
false religion and because they reject the true gospel, the true Christ, as I just quoted
from Hebrews 10. Don’t be fooled by them. Don’t be drawn to them. Be warned. They are dangerous and they will be condemned. Now you have to add to these three verses
the whole of Matthew chapter 23. I can’t do that, we don’t have time. But let me just give you a taste of it. Go back to Matthew 23 to get a feeling for
all the words that our Lord said. And I want you to notice the note of judgment
that is here. The word He uses is “Woe,” which means to
damn or to condemn. And you see it in verse 13 of Matthew 23,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” Verse 15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites.” “Woe to you…verse 16…blind guides, fools,”
blind men, verse 17. Verse 23, here comes damnation, again, “Woe,”
meaning damnation, it’s actually onomatopoetic word, it sounds like its meaning ohyeee, it’s
a groan in light of judgment. Verse 25, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” Verse 27, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” Verse 29, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.” And then verse 33, “You serpents, you brood
of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” Can you imagine Jesus standing in the temple
and this is what He’s saying to them? And they already hate Him with a passion and
want Him dead. And He does this because it’s true and it’s
merciful to warn them and it’s merciful to warn the people. Then all of a sudden there’s a seemingly strange
turn and verse 41 pictures Jesus sitting down opposite the temple treasury where people
gave their money, and watching people put money in. And along comes a poor widow and drops in
two cents. And Jesus comments that she gave more than
everybody else because she put in everything she had. Now the question comes, and we dealt with
this question four years ago, some of you will remember this, what is this? What does this have to do with anything? Universally…and I say that with an informed
mind…universally this woman is presented as a model of dutiful, faithful giving against
the ugly backdrop of the corrupt thieves and robbers among the religious leaders of Israel. She’s seen as a breath of fresh air, as a
window in a dark room. She’s seen as a contrasting person, a noble,
godly woman who gives sacrificially. That’s really a stretch. That doesn’t say anything about that in the
Scripture. The only thing it says is a poor widow came…in
verse 42…dropped in a couple of coins. That’s all it says. We don’t know anything about her, we certainly
don’t know what her motive was. We have the comment of Jesus that the two
coins was it, and that was all she had. No matter who you read on this, or what sermons
you might hear on this, typically people will say this is how we ought to give, we ought
to give till it hurts, we ought to give sacrificially, we ought to give in a surrendered fashion. We ought to give so that we completely demonstrate
trust in God, and that’s how this woman gave. There isn’t one word of support in this text
for any of those perspectives. It doesn’t say anything about her attitude
at all. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t even
tell us that she was a believer, it doesn’t say that she knew the true God, that she believed
in Christ. She is not a spiritual hero in the story. What is she in the story? I’ll tell you what she is, she’s a victim. She is a victim. A victim of what? She is a victim of the system. She is the ultimate system of a victim that
devours widows’ houses…verse 40. That’s the connection. This has nothing to do with Christian giving,
unless you think Christian giving is give everything you have. Take a vow of poverty, go home and die. You think that’s Christian giving? Or maybe you can go to Plan B…give everything
you have, take a vow of poverty, spend the rest of your life leeching on everybody else
so you can survive. Where in the Bible is it a Christian principle
of giving to give everything you have and go home and die? That is not in the Bible, not at all. It makes no sense. And by the way, the people who gave other
than the woman, there’s no judgment rendered on them. Jesus doesn’t condemn that. Why aren’t they the model? Why don’t we say, “Isn’t it wonderful that
rich people gave large sums?” That’s great, isn’t it? You wouldn’t argue that, would you? In fact, if you wanted a model of Christian
giving, you’ve got to go with the rich who gave large sums, not the woman who gave everything
and went home to die. God has never asked that. He doesn’t say that the rich gave too little. He doesn’t say the widow gave exactly the
right amount. He doesn’t say the rich had too much left
and the widow had the right amount left, none. He doesn’t say the rich had a bad attitude
when they gave a lot, and the woman had a good attitude when she gave everything. He doesn’t say anything about any motivations
or any attitudes at all. Her outward action is simply an evidence of
what that system did to widows. You want blessing of God, you give your money. She’s destitute. She’s got two cents left. She says to herself, “Either I take my two
cents and buy my last meal, or I do what they tell me, send them the money and God will
bless me.” Does that sound like a TV preacher to you? That’s the system. Send me your money. If you’re down to your last penny, send me
your money, open the floodgates, God will bless you if you send me your money. It was a den of robbers and they were stealing
it from the worst, the lowest, the most destitute, the worst off. This isn’t to teach us about attitudes in
giving, or amounts in giving. This is to teach us about corrupt religion. Beware of the false shepherds, the false teachers
who take the last coins out of the widows’ purse to fill their coffers on the pretense
that that kind of giving is the path to blessing. That’s the prosperity gospel. There’s nothing in her about the Lord loved
her, she was in the Kingdom. There’s nothing here about…Okay, you disciples,
you need to follow her example. So take the bag with all the money we’ve got
in there and go in and give it. That’s the last thing He would have told them. Why would you put your money in a robbers’
den. You wouldn’t commend that. She was a victim. There’s no invitation for the disciples to
imitate what she did, empty their pockets, empty the little purse that they carried. It would have been a perfect time to do that,
right? Jesus is going on the cross, this would be
a great time to test your faith, dump it all in. No. This is not any place for the Lord to inject
a lesson on giving. This isn’t about giving, this is about taking. This is all in a judgment context, judgment,
verses 38 to 40, and judgment starting in chapter 13, the whole section as He talks
about what’s coming is judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment. The context all along is judgment, and certainly
the rest of His message recorded in Matthew 23 is judgment, judgment, judgment, judgment. And all those woes pronounced on the leaders
are literally justified and validated by this one woman’s act. She is a poor, dear woman who is nothing but
a son of hell captive to a false religious system, dumping her last two coins into that
system under the promise that somehow this is the path to blessing. She gave everything she had. Let’s look at the text a little more closely,
that’s the overview. Verse 41, “He was seated there, opposite the
treasury.” The treasury was in the Court of the Women,
it was called, and Jesus had taught there before, John 8…that’s a great chapter to
read what went on when He was teaching there on that occasion. It was open to everybody. So they put the money receptacles in the Court
of the Women where everybody could come. It was called the Treasury because there were
those thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles where the people gave their money. There were all kinds of different things that
were supposed to elicit gifts from them, new shekel dues, old shekel dues, there were various
offerings and there was money for wood money for incense, money for gold for the temple,
there were all kinds of things. Each of those trumpets had a certain purpose
and they were going around putting all their money in. This was the real…get it, folks…heartbeat
of false religion. Mark it, when you see people telling you that
if you send them your money, God will bless you…that’s the heartbeat of a false teacher. Always false leaders are moved by greed. The Pharisees and scribes, Jesus said in Luke
16:14, were lovers of money…lovers of money. So Jesus lifts His head up after a wearying
day, having sat down probably the first time that day, and He began observing how the people
were putting money into the treasury. Just must have caused Him immense pain, giving
their money to this wretched apostate, corrupt system, under the assumption that they were
doing something for God that was going to produce blessing. And He comments, “Many rich people were putting
in large sums.” They weren’t being stingy. They were putting in large sums. They had a lot and they gave a lot. That was the system. They were putting in literally large sums,
pollo , much. The religious system demanded that. And then over against that, a poor widow came
and He watched her and put in two small copper coins which amount to a cent. Poor widow, the word…is a word from which
we get the English word penurious, destitute, basically. And this is one of the widows who has been
devoured by the system. Severe, severe abuse…she puts in two cents,
just to put that into perspective, the amount would have been one-sixty-fourth of a denarius
which was a day’s wage. That’s all she had left. The smallest coin used by the Jews and she
put two of them in…that was it, dropped them in the shofar-like receptacle. And then He called His disciples, in verse
43 to Him, and He said to them, “Truly I say to you,” I love that when He says that. It’s not like everything else was false, but
it’s so against the grain. “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 poor
woman. Relatively speaking, comparatively speaking,
her gift was greater, right? Because it was a hundred percent. You know, that system can’t be more corrupt. It cannot be more corrupt…devouring widows
like that. Scripture is full of commands, by the way,
as I told you earlier, to care for the widows. False religion has no interest in that at
all. They abuse widows and they do it in the name
of God. They do it in the name of Christ. This is a tragedy and the Lord will not tolerate
it. So, come to chapter 13. “As He was going out of the temple, one of
His disciples…He’s got something else on His mind, He’s got this woman on His mind,
this system…and one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones
and what wonderful buildings.'” This guy’s not real deep. He seems to have missed a lot. He’s stuck on the architecture and it was
something wonderful, the whole Eastern side was covered in gold. So they said when the morning sun came up
over the Mount of Olives and bounced off of that, you couldn’t look at it, it would be
like looking in the sun, it would blind you. Even in the evening when the sun was going
down, it was now evening, the sun was going down on the other side, the glory of that
temple would be only slightly diminished. And it was covered all over everywhere with
votive offerings. Luke tells us about that. Votive offerings were offerings given as a
part of a prayer, a dedication to God and they would be pieces of art that would be
hanging places, magnificent places, even given by very wealthy people. It was a sight to see, it was one of the wonders
of the ancient world. Some say it was the most magnificent building
in the ancient world. And this guy was impressed with the building,
and Jesus was not impressed with the system. And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great
buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which
will not be torn down.” This thing is coming down. Any system of religion that misrepresents
God and abuses widows is coming down. All the robbers, all the thieves, all the
fakes, all the phony teachers and preachers, all the prosperity preachers who get rich
on the gifts of desperate people looking for wealth and health, you will be judged. Sometimes judgment lingers. It lingered 40 years after this, didn’t it? Till 70 A.D. and that place was smashed and
not one stone was left on another. This should be a warning passage to those
contemporary preachers who prey on single older women who are the main constituency
of people who send money to these TV evangelists. “Woe to you who sell your miracle water and
miracle waters to promise to heal the desperate if they send you their money. Woe to you wealthy, self-indulgent TV preachers
who become rich on the backs of the lonely, poor, disillusioned, diseased and desperate. Woe to you who indulge in your ten thousand
dollar a night hotel rooms and claim revelations from God and spend a hundred thousand a month
on your private jet, taking money for all of that from the most desperate people and
doing it in the name of Christ. You will not escape judgment.” And so, the judgment fell on them and so it
always falls because God is always the same. They thought they were going to judge Jesus. The truth was, He went to the cross and out
the tomb the third day and 40 years later, their nation, their temple, their religious
system was completely destroyed and it has never recovered. This is to be a house of prayer, He said. Aren’t you thankful that you’re a part of
the truth? Aren’t you thankful that you’re a part of
the true church, that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, believe the gospel, are
in the place of blessing and not the place of judgment? God is gracious. Father, we thank You for this scriptural record. Thank You for the truth that it bears to our
hearts and minds. Thank You for loving us when we were unlovely,
saving us when we were sinners. Thank You for making the unrighteous righteous
by grace alone. Thank You for the gift of salvation. Thank You for the truth of true understanding
of Your Word. Help us to hold to the truth and to make no
truce and no alliance and no peace with error, but to be protectors of the truth and protectors
of Your church. Help us even to be protectors of people who
are victimized by these systems and boldly confront them in proclaiming what Your Word
says. It’s been so wonderful to worship You this
morning, but we know the work is not done when the service ends because it’s heart work,
soul work that You do. So we pray, Lord, if there are those here
who do not know Christ, who are on the judgment side still, who will be condemned for rejecting
the Son of God and the gospel of grace. I pray today, Lord, that they would turn from
their sin and rejection, they would repent and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior. We pray, Lord, that You will give us a renewed
commitment to walk with Christ in obedience, those of us who know You, to be faithful,
to love You with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, to love one another, to be servants
in every sense, slaves of Christ who will proclaim the glories of the gospel far and
wide. Lord, we’re so blessed and not due to anything
of our own, for before the foundation of the world, You chose us and set Your love upon
us. And Your Son died to pay for our sins and
You granted us the righteousness that can only be a gift. May in gratitude for that we set our lives
in the course of obedience and service to You with all our might. We thank You for the wonderful privilege of
praising You. We look forward of our time together tonight. In Your Son’s name. Amen.

 

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