Our services have officially started! In addition, the video and audio recordings of our sermons are available below. The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz this week for your edification and uplifting.
Mark 12:38-40, A Warning About Religious Hypocrisy:
- This morning we get to another short portion of Scripture, but don’t be fooled by the few words before us. There is a strong warning, and for some, a rebuke, concerning a hypocritical life – especially in the Church.
- Now, what is hypocrisy? It is when you claim to have a higher standard of belief and action, but it is not true, it’s just a claim – which you try to prove by lip service. So let me say this at the start, religious hypocrisy is dangerous! Swimming in this pool has no lifeguards, and the waves are heavy. Take the following as an example:
- A man who came into political power in the 1930s, made use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions which would become the pillars of this new government he led. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility.
- He handed out religious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his torn Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it. And so numerous religious people welcomed him as a man sent from God.
- This man had mastered the act of religious hypocrisy. This man would, in the mid 1940s, take his own life. Because my dear friends, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity—with no inward reality!
- And if Adolf Hitler could fool the masses, imagine the impact the Scribes had, as they were considered the teachers of the Law. How many other leaders today, play the religious card – but have no spiritual reality? There are whole governments, community leaders, even pastors, employers, who are caught in the trap of religious hyprocisy.
- So in an attempt to warn the masses, in an attempt to warn you, Jesus informs us of the reality of religious hypocrisy and warns us of its consequences! Therefore, we’ll be looking at the framework and danger of religious hypocrisy in order to grasp Christ’s warning!
1. The Framework of Religious Hypocrisy:
- Text – 12:38-40
- Explanation – Now as we get into this, let me start by saying that a framework refers to the agenda, or context and outline of something. And in this case, we need to examine where the hypocrisy of the Scribes came from.
- The name scribes is from a word meaning “the writings.” The Scribes were of the tribe of Levi, who were the professional doctors of the law. They were stewards of the Old Testament. It was actually a humble position and not one where you would expect a lot of riches. Historically, scribes lived off the freewill offerings of the people, which would not normally result in a healthy bank balance.
- Illustration – It was a position to be respected, but not one to be pursued for rank, reputation, or riches. And since the people of Israel were to be people of the law, the vocation of the scribes was always important. It therefore became an office out of necessity.
- The office seemed to grow in prominence during the Babylonian exile. At that time, it was particularly important for God’s scattered people to have the word of God. It was also vital to maintain the documented history of their nation, which is why a scribe by the name of Ezra compiled the Chronicles. We know them as 1 and 2 Chronicles.
- Application – However, Ezra is an example of the kind of scribe with whom the Lord was pleased (see Ezra 7:1–10; Nehemiah 8:1ff). He had a heart that was devoted to God, to his word, and to the welfare of his people.
- But a downgrade occurred between his day and Jesus’. By that time, the scribes were largely ignorant of the word of God. They actually disobeyed and often distorted God’s word.
- Conclusion – So sadly, despite being so close to the actual manuscripts of the old covenant, the Scribes lost sight of God and His grace. So in their self-righteousness, they now pursued rank, reputation, and riches.
- Bridge – The scribes had become a dangerous group with their ongoing hypocrisy. So by examining the character of the Scribes, we’ll look at…
2. The Danger of Religious Hypocrisy:
- Text – 12:38-40
- Explanation – firstly, they were self-exalting. This is revealed in the words “who like to walk around in long robes.” This was a special robe of white linen that went from the shoulders to the feet. It was typically worn by royalty and those of social rank, whether due to wealth or political position.
- The scribes were out to promote themselves, and one way they did this was by how they dressed. They had a need for self-promotion. Today, an example of this may be how pastors have served parking, being treated like VIPs. Friend’s Christianity is meant to reveal humility through action, and not by self-exaltation in our gifts or resources.
- Illustration – However, that’s not all. The Scribes were also self-conscious. Look at the words “and like greetings in the marketplaces.” The words used here refer to formal greetings where the concept of authority was front and centre.
- It seems that the scribes would position themselves publicly so that they would receive these special greetings. And when a scribe passed by on the street or in the bazaar people rose respectfully.
- They had this need to be at the centre. They had to have their opinion noticed. Look at the next line in your Bibles, it reads, “and have the best seats in the synagogue.” The synagogue layout included benches up front, with a particular seat in front of the Torah. The person sitting there faced the congregation.
- He was literally between the people and the word of God. The Scribes would occupy this seat, not guarding the Word, but seeking the centre of attention. Furthermore, their self-consciousness was revealed by their love for “the places of honour at feasts.” Which adds to the issue of status, as they would sit at the head of the table, a special place reserved for the head of the house.
- Application – but there was more to them than just seeking the centre of attention and being self-exalting, Mark’s passage says they were “devour[ing] widows’ houses.” The word translate “devour” is probably best understood if you had a teenage boy in the house.
- He just devours the fridge and pantry. What you thought you had, he already ate! In a sense, the scribes “ate up” the possessions of widows. They would prey on the weak and defenceless. They took advantage of them by drawing out of them as much as they could.
- Which is a serious problem in our communities today. The man of God would care for the poor distressed widow until she’s donated her 1000s, then, she is left for the wolves.
- Conclusion – However, Jesus continues this warning with the words “and for a pretence make long prayers.” This highlights their religious hypocrisy. This is how they masked the corruption of their hearts. The prayed, but not to God, for they didn’t truly pray.
- It was all a show. It was all part of the act. And because of it, we see the condemnation declared by Jesus. Having failed in their supposed service, they will face judgment. They might enjoy their rank, reputation, and riches now, but they would face the wrath of God forever.
- The scribes were self-serving, self-exalting, and self-indulging sinners who pretended to be caring, interested, and perhaps loving. Now you might know someone like this, you might be thinking of someone who needs to hear this, don’t.
- This warning is for you here. Christ calls us, His people, to be God-serving, God-exalting, God-loving people. To be His people at heart! Not to be a people who weigh ourselves against the religiously hypocrite. As that itself is an act of hypocrisy.
- Bridge – so where do we go from here? Jesus shows in the next few verses…
3. The Contrast of Religious Hypocrisy:
- Text – 12:41-44
- Explanation – Surprise, we’re not done! Jesus wanted the disciples to behold the contrast of religious hypocrisy! We just learned that the Scribes were keen to take two cents from widows, this widow was willing to give her two cents to the Lord. It was all she had and it tells us all we need to know about the contrast of religious hypocrisy.
- Jesus was heading out of the temple, and as He made His way, he and his disciples stopped at the Court of Women. Side note, this wasn’t exclusively for women but it was the furthest point a woman could go besides the place of sacrifice.
- Illustration – In this area was the temple treasury. This is where all the offerings were stored. And from Jesus’ vantage point, he could see people as they deposited their offerings. And as he watched, he noticed wealthy worshippers giving large sums. But this did not capture his attention as much as this poor widow.
- This widow was seriously lacking. Everything she had was a penny worth, just a small part of a day’s work. What’s more is, this was probably a freewill offering. Meaning she didn’t have to give it but she chose to do so.
- Application – Right here is where Jesus teaches us the contrast of a religious hypocrite, and that is an honest or sincere believer. Jesus told them that these two small copper coins, worth little to the world, were, in God’s estimation, a greater amount “than all those contributing to the offering box.”
- It might not make mathematical sense. But Jesus’ point was not mathematical, He shows us that she gave “out of her poverty,” while the rich gave out their abundance. And so in God’s, she gave far more. The rich gave their spare change. She gave and had nothing to spare.
- The rich could give to God and still not be dependent on God; but the widow gave because she realised her dependence on God. She gave her all to the Lord realising the Lord was her all.
- Conclusion – What also stands out is, she didn’t care what others thought of her. This was a very public offering. People could hear the small ding of two little copper coins going down the neck of the metal shofar.
- But God was her audience and Jesus was very well-pleased. The rich, with their abundant gifts, did not receive any special mention whereas she received eternally honourable mention. This widow offered up her life to God. This is the cost of discipleship. She knows that if she is to truly follow the Lord, then she must be willing to give it all.
- Bridge – So we’ve the framework and danger of religious hypocrisy, but we’ve also just seen the contrast, and therefore I’d like to close with some practical applications.
- There are various warnings from today’s passage, as religious hypocrisy loves the values of the world. It is about popularity and prosperity. It is a type of spare-change Christianity, where you give and participate when you have time or are in the right mood.
- True Christianity is real, because it is an abandonment of self. It is unmoved by the response of others, it means trusting God with a sense of complete dependence. Friends, don’t let your relationship with Jesus be about reserves.
- This widow had no reserves, she had nothing to lose and everything to gain. You might not be in this position. To you it be feel like a lose everything and gain nothing scenario. Therefore you have to respond in greater dependence in the Lord.
- You might be tempted to stockpile and to cut back on your offerings. You might be pulling back your commitment to serving the body of Christ. And at the end of the day, all of us only have two cents’ worth. Will you sacrifice your two cents to Jesus and trust that He will give you more than you could ever have imagined.
- Yes, trusting Jesus will cost you. It will cost you your all. But it will never cost you what it cost Jesus. He refused to save his life so that he could save yours. If you choose to save your life, you will lose what could ultimately be saved!
- Don’t pretend to love Jesus and His people, and then not show up or serve or pray with. Come and love His people, come before Him and love Him truly.