As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44, NRSV)
Beware of men in long flowing robes who want the best seats.
Who devour widows’ houses and say things so people notice them.
For they have their reward. Whoever seeks to do things to gain from them, has already received their reward.
And as Jesus watched people put their offerings in the collection plate, he noticed a woman and told the disciples about her.
Now this passage is used as a Stewardship passage to give everything we have. And yes it just might mean that, but given the verses before I think it might mean something different. You see Jesus just said that there are people who devour widows’ houses, and he specifically said they were scribes, those who know the law. Those who wrote commentary on the law and gave rules for the communities to follow. They would have set the bar for giving. And this woman through those rules was forced to give all she had. She did not give her last 2 coins because she was moved to give it all to God, but was forced by a system that devours widows’ houses.
The religious system of the time worked to keep her in her place when it should have been working to lift her up and free her to be a servant of the living God.
So how does our religious system keep people down?
How can we better lift people up to be servants of the living God?