Message Supplement (8 November 2015)

What makes a spirit rich? The scripture selection from Mark 12:38-44 reveals interesting insights. Before we get too deep into who is and is not spiritually rich, we need to introduce religious bureaucrats, a group Jesus singled-out for criticism. Jesus said “[b]eware of the scribes . . . ” (Mark 12:38). A scribe in Jesus’ day was like the combination of a theologian and religious jurist. Scribes interpreted the Jewish Old Testament, especially the requirements of the hundreds of commands in the Law. The scribes seemed to be preoccupied with their own authority, and they are portrayed as craving respect and honor.

Jesus spoke his disdain for the scribes as he called attention to their hypocrisy. Jesus emphasized the scribes’ behavior as showmanship designed for public consumption. An intriguing criticism is the condemnation of the scribes’ long prayers, made for the sake of appearance. In contrast, the Lord’s prayer (also known as the disciples’ prayer) is powerfully succinct, not like some of the inflated blathering of someone saying religious words under false pretense. The best utterances of all are our private and personal prayers, the ones which are unique to us and which come unscripted from our hearts.

In contrast to the wealthy scribes, Jesus elevated the humble gift of a destitute widow. He pointed out to his disciples the type of people going to the great Jerusalem Temple and making donations. Many wealthy people came and some of those did their best to publicize their giving so that all could witness their excesses. Then a poor and elderly widow put in two small coins worth a penny. Jesus said of the woman that she was rich toward God because she had given all she had. The elderly woman didn’t call attention to herself nor did she seek status. But God sees, just as Jesus saw her that day. Imagine that as she gave her meager coins that woman was simultaneously creating a heavenly reward. There’s a great lesson in all this. We are spiritually rich when we offer God what we have, and when we do so not for public consumption or to make a statement. The silent, anonymous widow knew she wouldn’t obtain public acclaim, yet our Lord singled her out as an exemplar for the ages.

Is your spirit rich? It is not easy or else everyone would be rich toward God. Although we can garner the world’s wealth, that doesn’t automatically result in spirit richness. Being rich in spirit certainly doesn’t mean we can’t be blessed on earth. Indeed, some of the most contented and joyful people also enjoy God’s favor in their earthly dealings. When we give back to God our attitude and behavior are aligned with heaven more than with earth. Richness of spirit is a state of mind wherein we crave God’s love and truth more than earthly honor and respect.

Therefore let us be as that ancient widow, devoted and rich in spirit. The blessings you’ll reap far surpass anything you’ve spent in loving God and others. One of the marvelous ways in which God’s kingdom works is that we always get back more than what we’ve put in. As you give of your time, talent and treasure, God’s blessing exceeds what you’ve given. The sense of completeness and satisfaction from serving God is priceless, above anything you’ll find in any earthly treasury.