Digging in Deeper: Mark 12:43-44

“Summoning his disciples, he said to them ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had – all she had to live on.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever received a gift that was truly a generous one? There’s just something about that experience that feels good. You feel honored. You may be a little ashamed or embarrassed by the generosity, but your gratitude is enormous. You immediately rate the character of the giver as high. On the other hand, have you ever received a gift you knew was not in the least bit generous? The feelings then are almost the exact opposite. You may take whatever it is, but you’re really not very grateful for it at all. The other person just did it because he had to or somehow felt obligated to do it. That’s not a gift you’re ever going to be very happy receiving. Well, as much as you feel that way, God does even more. This odd little closing episode from Mark 12 gives us a really powerful picture of this truth. Let’s take a look.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 10:23-25

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

In February of 1848, a pair of German philosophers published a pamphlet in England at the behest of the Communist League. The pamphlet made a small splash at the time it was published, but it would go on to become one of the most consequential literary works of the last two hundred years. This was not because of its literary eloquence or artistry, but because it introduced some powerful ideas which were eventually bought into by some powerful people who attempted to put them into practice on a national scale. The world has never really recovered. The pamphlet, of course, was the Communist Manifesto, and the philosophers were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Now, neither man cared a bit about the Christian faith, but they have had many ideological followers who do claim such a banner, and have tried again and again to reconcile the ideas of Marx and Engels with the ideas of Jesus. This passage is one of the most important of such efforts. Let’s see if we can’t get our hearts and minds around what Jesus was saying here this morning.

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Morning Musing: Mark 10: 21-22

Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. (CSB – Read the chapter)

My oldest son learned about figurative language this year in school. I know that because, thanks to Covid, most of his lessons about it happened over my shoulder in my office. He learned about and has gotten pretty good at identifying oxymorons, idioms, similes, metaphors, and the like. One of the items that didn’t make his list is the paradox. A paradox is a statement that seems totally absurd, but proves true upon further examination. Of all the paradoxes there have ever been, this man seeking the source of eternal life from Jesus discovers one of the most challenging of the bunch.

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Morning Musing: Zephaniah 1:12-13

“And at that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who settled down comfortably, who say to themselves: The Lord will do nothing–good or bad. Their wealth will become plunder and their houses a ruin. They will build houses but never live in them, plant vineyards but never drink their wine.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Lisa and I have recently been watching through a series that popped up on our Hulu account called “Extreme Homes.” The show takes viewers inside a whole variety of houses that are “extreme” in one way or another. Some are small, some are huge, but they are all unique. But while they come in all shapes and sizes, the one thing they all have in common is that they are owned by people who are wealthy. They are homes built with the intention of being able to set aside all worries and concerns and just enjoy life. In many ways, that’s not just the American dream, but the dream of everyone, everywhere. Based on what God says to the people of Judah here, though, it sounds like it might be more of a nightmare.

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Digging in Deeper: Habakkuk 2:9-11

“Woe to him who dishonestly makes wealth for his house to place his nest on high, to escape the grasp of disaster! You have planned shame for your house by wiping out many peoples and sinning against your own self. For the stones will cry out from the wall, and the rafters will answer them from the woodwork.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

How have you come by what you have? Hard work? Probably. Inheritance? Perhaps. Gift from others? Certainly some of it. Did you come by any of it by…less savory…means? Let me change lines of questioning on you. How do you think about money? What does it mean to you? What kind of a role does it serve in your life? These two themes may not seem to have anything to do with one another, but they have a great deal more in common than you might think.

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