Faithlife Sermons

Mark 12:38-44

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:39
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
If you have your bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Mark chapter 12.
We will begin reading together in verse 38 and we will read all the way down to verse 44.
for the last several weeks we have been reading of Jesus’ confrontations with the religious elite in the temple of God in Jerusalem.
Last week, we saw that Jesus had answered all of their attacks so well, the religious leaders had stopped asking questions… and now Jesus was doing the teaching.
It would be fair to presume that we only have little snapshots here in the gospel of Mark from those far lengthier teachings in the temple.
But today’s passage, shows us that Jesus pulled no punches.
In chapter 11, we saw Jesus physically flip tables in his frustration over the corruption happening within the temple.
Now we see Jesus elaborating all the more on what he was seeing.
Lets read, and then pray for understanding.
Mark 12:38–44 ESV
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Lets Pray
Mark strategically places these two teachings side by side so as to compare two types of worshippers: the scribe and the widow.
One of the worshippers serves as a warning to us.
The other worshipper serves as an example for us to imitate.
In the culture of the time, it would have been generally assumed that the scribe was the model of godliness.
According to popular sentiment, the scribe is the one who has been blessed by God with a position of prominence.
He is honored among many.
He is wealthier than most.
He has power, authority, and influence.
The impoverished widow on the other hand doesn’t appear to have been blessed by God.
She has no prominence.
She has no financial resources.
She has no influence.
The culture very naturally would have assumed that the worship of the Scribe was the more valuable and the more impressive worship.
But just as Jesus has done from the beginning, he readjusts common perspectives and he flips natural values on their head.
Rather than praise the Scribe, and rather than praise the wealthy giving large sums of money in the temple… Jesus actually warns very sternly against the Scribes and their worship.
Jesus uses the word “Beware”
He uses a word that conveys potential danger…,
Like a Shepherd warning his sheep of wolves on the hunt, Jesus says be careful,
be on guard,
watch out for this.
Mark 12:38–39 ESV
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,
We are going to look at three warnings this morning from the example of the Scribes.

Warning #1 Beware of People Pleasing Worship (v.38-40)

Note the word “like” in Jesus’ description.
The Scribes like to walk around in long robes.… these were special robes that set them apart from the common people in the temple.
They like the greetings in the market places… meaning they like that everyone wants to talk to them, acknowledge them, And get attention from them.
They like the best seats in the synagogues.… the seats up front where they have the best view and where they can best be viewed.
They like the places of honor at the feasts.
As we have seen over and over again in the gospel of Mark…
We are warned that there is a way to do godly looking things, in very godless ways.
There is a way to do godly things, without the motivation of pleasing God.
Remember Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Mark 7.
Mark 7:6–7 ESV
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
In this case, Jesus points out that the Scribes had a driving motivation and it was not to please God.
It was not to worship God or to lead others to worship God.
Rather than offering genuine praise to God…,
their hearts desire was to receive praise from other people.
It was not God whom they wanted to please… it was men.
And what a dangerous disposition this is.
Every person in this room has a stronger than you realize desire to please others.
You want to be liked.
you want to be valued.
You want to be affirmed.
You want to be told good job, well done, you look good, you did good, you smell good, you write good, you talk good.
You want to be told you are strong, smart, funny, likable, tough, and even godly.
There is a hole in the soul that feels empty and inadequate without someone else’s approval.…
and the human nature is such that it seeks to fill that hole in the soul with as much of other people’s praise and affirmation as possible.
You seek it from your parents, bosses, spouses, and friends.
We all want to be important.
We want to be significant.
And their is a sense in which some of those longings for love and affirmation are designed to be fulfilled in healthy ways within Christian community…
but what happens when you twist even religious practices into something that serves your longings for recognition more than they serve the God you give lip service to?
What happens when your prayers within the congregation are more about proving yourself to others than pouring yourself out to God?
What happens when prayers in front of people are often and easy, but prayers in the quiet of your living room are few and far between.
What happens when your primary thoughts at the synagogue become about which seat of honor you will get, rather than how you will edify those in the seats around you.
Jesus says Beware of people-pleasing worship…
In fact, he says there is a greater condemnation for such people pleasers.
There is a sort of selfishness that comes with man-centered people-pleasing worship that actually serves self not just instead of others…, but even at the expense of others.
Notice verse 40,
Mark 12:40 ESV
who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Jesus notes that these Scribes will take every last penny of a poor widow’s money to pay for their own luxurious lifestyle all the while making long prayers in the synagogue and pretending to be holy…
the accusation here is one of hypocrisy.

Warning #2 Beware of Hypocritical Worship

This verse would have been more striking to the Jewish reader then to us… because of the specific teachings in the Old Testament law about caring for the widow.
The Old Testament, which the Scribes claimed to be experts in, was full of warnings to anyone who mistreated widows.
We see this emphasis first in Exodus.
Exodus 22:22–24 ESV
22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
And we see the seriousness of it all again and again throughout the Old Testament.
Notice the prophet Isaiah’s indictment on the worship in Israel, and notice one of the reasons for God rejecting their worship.
Isaiah 1:13–17 ESV
13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
In Isaiah, the people were obeying the ritual expectations of God’s law while totally ignoring the moral implications of God’s law.
Here in the gospel of Mark, the Sadducees were worshipping God publicly and proudly…, all the while they were disobeying one of the clearest teachings in the Old Testament.
They were not just neglecting the needy among them…, but they were exploiting them and as the text says, “devouring” them.
Hypocritical worship is the kind of worship that picks and chooses the types of religious activity that suits you best.
Its the kind of worship that throws itself into the public and praiseworthy acts of worship… all the while it totally ignores and rebels against very obvious teachings of the Lord.
Be warned…
God is not pleased with our worship… when we knowing and willingly ignore his word in one area of our life, while we present ourselves as obedient in all other areas.
God is not worshipped, when we treat him as God only in the areas of life that are most convenient to us.
Do you see this temptation in yourself?
Do you see this temptation to pick and choose which of God’s instructions you will obey as if you are the God over those instructions?
The point is clear here.
The Scribes do not fulfill either of the two most important commands Inquired about just a few verses earlier.
Mark 12:29–31 ESV
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.”
People- pleasing and hypocritical worship does not love God fully nor does it love others…rather this kind of worship merely uses God and others… for self-fulfillment.
The self is ultimate in this kind of worship…, while God is secondary.
We can see this even in the way Jesus describes their financial giving.
We are going to focus on the impoverished widow here in a moment but for now, notice how the wealthy people give.
Mark 12:41 ESV
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.
Offerings in the first century were not secretive.
They were public acts of worship.
In fact, large offering boxes in the temple were built in such a way that amplified the sound of the coins being dropped into them.
They were shaped somewhat like trumpets so that no one could reach down in and steal out of the box, but also so that the sound rang out when someone gave into the treasury.
but its not the public act of giving that is sin…, its the twistedness of men who turn that act of worship into an opportunity to impress others.
And of course there was a lot of that going on.
Mark says, many rich people were giving large sums…
Many wealthy were flaunting their generosity…, but their generosity was not sacrificial.… They gave large amounts compared to others, but there was nothing self-denying or sacrificial about their giving.…
Mark 12:44 (ESV)
For they all contributed out of their abundance,
This leads us to the third warning.

Warning #3 Beware of Leftover and Lagniappe Worship

The wealthy in this story are financially giving to the worship ministry of the temple… and that is seen as a good thing.
but Jesus says they contributed out of their abundance.
In other words, they were giving what they did not need, and what did not cost them anything.
They gave only what was left over after their own luxuries and expenses were all paid for.
their giving cost them nothing. and thus their giving did not make God look glorious… It only made them look glorious.
The people of Israel fell into this kind of giving in the book of Malachi.
In Malachi, the people of Israel brought to the Lord for sacrifice only what they did not want, or no longer needed.
Malachi 1:8–10 ESV
When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
Beware of leftover and lagniappe giving…
Let me pause here and ask you this question:
Does the Lord get your leftovers?
Doe simply get your leftover time?
Its interesting how people will automatically assume that their job, or sports, or their weekly vacations at the camp or wherever automatically take precedence over worship with the Lord’s people…
Its interesting how we prioritize in life.
Are you disciplined to sacrificially give financially to the mission of the Lord?… or does giving in your life look more like an afterthought tip to the Lord as the plate passes you by?
You spend a lot of energy building relationships with others.
You spend a lot of energy working, and planning For your job and for your vacations and for your fitness plan,…
Does the Lord get that kind of intentionality and planning?
You do you have goals, and benchmarks, and dreams of how you might grow spiritually and help others grow… or are does the Lord get your leftover energy and and your lagniappe intentionality?
Beware of that kind of worship that sacrifices nothing…
That is not how Jesus has called us to follow him.
Remember Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler who valued his possessions more than he valued God.
Mark 10:21–25 ESV
21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
These tendencies to value stuff, and status, more than God are tendencies that are more present in your own heart then you realize.
The scribes were not unique extremist sinners…
They are simply representatives of the human condition.….
But they are not the only example we have here in this text.
After having called them out publicly, Jesus pulls his disciples in close and he points out to them another worshipper who had come to the temple.
Jesus looks right past all of this people-pleasing, hypocritical, selfish show boating… and he spots one individual.
Mark 12:42–44 ESV
42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Though this impoverished widow gave what amounts to a penny.... Jesus makes a shocking statement about the quality of her gift...
He says, “she has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box”
She obviously did not put quantitatively more in the offering box, but Jesus says she put qualitatively more in the offering box.
In other words, her worship was sweet and precious and valuable to the Lord despite its smallness.
but why?
What makes worship qualitatively more valuable to the Lord?
Lets look at a few truths about God-exalting worship.

Truth #1 True Worship Seeks to Please God, not Man

The poor widow was different than the Scribes in every way.
She did not seek to please others.
She was not seeking attention, in fact, someone of her social status was likely trying to avoid attention if at all possible.
Attention was not her motivation..
She gives the equivalent of a penny…
It was something to be embarrassed by compared to the others giving in the temple.... so why give it at all?
Why put yourself into the social situation of ridicule when you might as well just not come into the temple at all?
There must have been purity about her motivation.
It must have been a bout more than being seen by others… It must have been about being seen by God.
God designed us to seek approval.
God designed us to seek to please not people, but God himself.
Note Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount.
Matthew 6:1–6 ESV
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
True worship wants to please God, because the worshipper loves God and wants the reward that only God can bring.
True worship flows from the most important commandment....
Mark 12:30 ESV
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.’
This widow’s gift had no chance of impressing people…
God was her only audience.
And with God as her only audience… she gave it all.
t her gift was different.
In fact Jesus says it was qualitatively more valuable than the others…, because she gave all that she had…
She did not give her leftovers and lagnyapp to the Lord.
She gave it all.
Mark 12:44 ESV
For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Truth #2 True Worship Makes God Look Glorious

She gave so sacrificially so that she was not sure where the next meal would come from.
She would have to trust the God whom she was worshipping to be the God who would provide for her next needs.
And Jesus says in doing so… she gave far more than the wealthy religious elite around her.
this is the type of sacrificial giving Jesus has expected from all his followers in the gospel of Mark.
Mark 8:34–37 ESV
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?
Jesus calls for a kind of worship, and a kind of obedience, and a kind of giving… that makes him look glorious.
The widows gift reflected the value and the worth and the glory of the one to whom she was giving.
Her worship showed that she believed God to be trustworthy.
She believed him to be faithful to care for her needs, though she was giving her last penny.
Her worship showed that she believed God to be praiseworthy.
He was worthy not just the leftovers, but everything she had… and thus her sacrifice displayed his eternal value.
Paul says this about his whole life. He sacrificed so much, but in his sacrifice he manifested the value of his savior.
Philippians 3:7–9 ESV
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
This is one of the areas that the prosperity gospel preachers get it all wrong.
They teach on money all the time and how you should five financially to their causes…, but they provide as motivation the possibility of you becoming more rich. They dangle in front of your face the carrot of present prosperity all the while the only ones getting more prosperous are them...
They have so twisted the concept of financial giving, that it makes it hard to talk about it in good and healthy ways.. but the Bible talks about it.
The Bible commands that Christian give for the relief of the poor,
the accomplishment of the great commission to the ends of the earth,
the support of pastors in the church and the work of the ministry of the church…
but all of that really falls under this one heading… we worship through giving to make God look glorious.
We showcase his eternal value.
Jesus tells the analogy in Matthew
Matthew 13:44 ESV
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The man sacrifices everything else, because of the surpassing value of owning that field.
The field stands as a symbol of relationship with God in the Kingdom of God.
Pleasing him and making him known is our primary aim even if it costs us everything.... especially when it costs us everything.
I am concerned that the American church is not prepared to endure persecution… because we have been so conditioned to believe that worship is never costly, and uncomfortable.
but the testimony of the bible is clear… it is specifically sacrifice, through which God is made to look most glorious.
#2 True Worship Makes God Look Glorious
So what do we do with all this?
How do we strive to become better worshippers?
How do we avoid the pitfalls of people-pleasing, hypocrisy, and leftover worship?
Jesus is the answer...
The gospel message Jesus was bringing to pass would not only accomplish the forgiveness for our faulty worship… it would also pave the way for true worshippers.

Takeaway #1 - Confront your People Pleasing Worship with the Gospel Message

Listen to this quote from pastor and author Dane Ortlund
“What we all tend to do is walk through life amassing a sense of who we are as an aggregate of what we think everyone else thinks of us. We walk along, building a sense of self through all the feedback pinging at us. We don’t realize we’re doing it. And when others are critical, or snub us, or ignore us, or ridicule us, that builds our sense of who we are are. It inevitably shapes us. And so we must constantly hold The gospel before our eyes. And as the gospel becomes real to us, the need for human approval loses its vice-like grip on our hearts, because we are no longer putting our heads down on our pillows at night medicating our sense of worth with human approval… Sensing our inadequacy, we set up our career, our relationships, our studies, our public speaking, our athletic abilities as functional gods to which we are looking for justification - to know that we are ok…What if we went into the interview, the conversation, the classroom, the game, already okay? Already justified. (Dane Ortlund, Deeper, p.98)
This is the beauty of the gospel message that Jesus was accomplishing through his life, death, and resurrection.
God’s approval of you is not based upon your failure.... It is based on Jesus’s success.
This is what Justification means… You are declared righteous in the eyes of God because Jesus took your place.
You are loved, approved, affirmed, valued, and cherished.... on the basis of Jesus’ perfect life sacrificed on your behalf.
You don’t need to please people.... when the God of the universe is pleased with you by virtue of the work of his son Jesus Christ....
Dwell on that reality.
Live in that reality.
Child of God… right now… only through faith in Jesus you are completely and totally right with God and he is pleased with you.

Takeaway #2 Confront your Hypocritical Worship with the Gospel Message.

Jesus came to justify you in God’s sight… but he also came to transform you...
The gospel of Jesus is the good news that you are forgiven of all your sin, but it is also the good news that God now empowers you to overcome your sin.
Perhaps you are here this morning and you feel somewhat trapped in a form of hypocritical worship...
There is a sin struggle, or a particular area of your life that you feel it is impossible to rid yourself of.
You feel as if you are always worshipping in one area of your life but always rebelling in another.
Be encouraged...
The gospel both akcnowledges your failures and gives you hope for overcoming them.
Jesus came not just to save the hypocrite, but to transform him… slowly, but surely over the course of his fight of faith.
Jesus came to create worshippers in spirit and truth who will shed away their hypocritical ways.
Christian, you are in process…
The gospel promises that God will slowly bring into alignment your beliefs with your actions… and he has promised to do so through the power of the Holy Spirit helping you to fight sin, repent, and believe more and more every day.
Lean into the power of the Spirit this morning and ask for his help to shed away those areas of life that are not given wholly to the Lord.

Takeaway #3 Confront Your Leftover Worship with the Gospel Message

I want to close by just asking this question...
Is your worship of God in your life consistent with the gospel that you say you believe in?
The gospel message tells us the story of Jesus who though sacrificed everything for the sake of drawing us to himself.
He stepped off of his throne and into humanity to live an impoverished life that would end in agonizing crucifixion.
Philippians 2:8 ESV
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He gave of himself so that he might give grace to us unimaginable for all eternity forever and ever.
Ephesians 1:3–9 ESV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
Is your worship, your giving, your sacrifice, consistent with what you believe you are promised by the sacrifice of King Jesus?
Does your worship make God and his gospel look gloriously worth it?
Lets pray to that end.
Related Media
Related Sermons