“A Generous Gift ~ Sincere Giving”
LESSON 4 — December 27, 2015
TIME: A.D. 30
BIBLE BASIS: Matthew 23:2–12; Mark 12:38–44KJV
BIBLE TRUTH: Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees’ need for recognition and affirmed the compassion and humility of the poor widow’s gift.
MEMORY VERSE: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
LESSON AIM: OBSERVE the contrast that Jesus made between the arrogance of the religious leaders and the piety of the humble, poor woman; REFLECT on the tension between wanting recognition and selfless giving that often receives no recognition; and RESOLVE to become more selfless in giving.
- Facts: to see how the Lord Jesus valued gifts and giving.
- Principle: to use His criteria in giving will give us proper perspective.
- Application: to give daily with godly motivations and attitudes.
Sooner or later, all professing Christians are faced with the mandate of giving to God, usually money or time or both. This is usually done through the local church, although many give to missionaries or charitable causes. Since our motivations and attitudes in giving are spoken of so strongly by the Lord Jesus, it behooves us to learn what He thinks about giving.
HYPOCRITICAL LEADERS CONDEMNED: Matthew 23:2–7
- The essence of their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:2–3): Jesus had been teaching in the temple during His final week of public ministry. Challenged by questions from Jewish religious leaders, He had put them all to shame (22:15–46). Now He addressed His disciples, along with the pilgrims who had crowded into Jerusalem for the Passover. (23:1). Jesus spoke of the scribes and the Pharisees” (Matthew 23:2). Scribes were teachers of the law and were revered as the highest authorities in Judaism. Pharisees were a sect devoted to strict observance of the law and traditions. Most scribes also were Pharisees, so the two are mentioned together. These, said Jesus, “sit in Moses’ seat.” They taught as Moses’ representatives. Therefore, said Jesus, people should be careful to do whatever the scribes commanded, insofar as it involved keeping God’s law. But they should not imitate the leaders’ works, for they did not practice that they preached.
- The heartlessness of their impositions (Matthew 23:4): Jesus cited examples of their hypocrisy. “They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders,” He alleged. They weighed people down with irksome rules, many of them not even from the law but from additional tradition. But this was not the worst of their sins. Having imposed these legal burdens, “they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Some have taken this to mean the scribes would not shoulder the same burdens they laid on others. That may well have been the case (cf. vs. 3), But they did pride themselves on their external observances, so it could also mean they would not lift a finger to alleviate the burdens they had imposed.
- The motive behind their actions (Matthew 23:5–7): Whatever the scribes and Pharisees did, they did it to be seen by others. They sought human applause. For example, they wore extra-wide phylacteries and bordered their robes with extra-long tassels. Phylacteries were leather cubes affixed by straps to the forehead and the left arm near the heart. Each contained four Scripture passages on pieces of parchment — Exodus 13:1–10 and 11–16 and Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21. The use of Phylacteries was based on a literal interpretation of commands to bind God’s teachings as a sign upon the hand and frontlets between the eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8). They were intended as aids to prayer, but by New Testament times they often were seen as amulets to ward off evil. The Pharisees made their phylacteries broader than normal to impress others. They also also enlarged “the borders of their garments” Matthew 23:5). All Jews were commanded to put fringes or tassels, on their garments to remind them of their obligations to the Lord (Numbers 15:38–39; Deuteronomy 22:12). The Pharisees lengthened theirs to call attention to their status. In their lust for recognition, the Pharisees also loved the places of honor at banquets and the most prominent seats in the synagogues. Moreover, they glorified in “greetings in markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi” Matthew 23:7). When teachers of the law appeared in public, they expected recognition. Foremost among the titles of honor was “Rabbi” (“my master”). In Jesus’ day, it was not yet an official title, but it was a mark of respect reserved for a teacher. To be called “Rabbi” was not in itself wrong, for John the Baptist was so addressed by his disciples (John 3:26). But the Pharisees glorified in the title, especially if it was ostentatiously repeated.
SINCERE DISCIPLES CAUTIONED: Matthew 23:8–12; Mark 12:38–40
- Give Christ His deserved status (Matthew 23:8): Jesus drew from this example a lesson for His disciples: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” Honorific titles have no place among Jesus’ followers, for all of them are learners at His feet.
- Shun personal recognition (Matthew 23:9–10); Jesus also told His followers to “call no man your father upon the earth.” This should not be taken literally to disparage respect for our physical fathers. “Father” was used figuratively of teachers, advisers, and other authority figures (cf. Genesis 45:8; Judges 17:10; 2 Kings 2:12; Acts 7:2). In general, it was a term of great respect. But Jesus warned against revering any individual to the point of worship. Believers all look to one Father, and He is in heaven. Jesus further cautioned, “Neither be ye called masters” (Matthew 23:10). This is another warning against assuming a title of authority and demanding the respect of followers. That would be presumptuous, for only “one is your master, even Christ.”
- Avoid hypocritical pretense (Matthew 12:38–40: Mark’s Gospel includes further cautions to sincere disciple. we find some of the same indictments against scribes and Pharisees as those recorded by Matthew. Jesus warned His followers, “Beware of the scribes which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces. They also coveted the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms (places) and feasts.” There was still more hypocrisy: they devoured the homes of widows. Teachers of the law forbidden to take pay for their services, so they depended on gifts from patrons. This often was abused, and they used devious means of raising support. They found ways to confiscate the resources of widows, one of Israel’s most vulnerable classes. Under Mosaic Law, widows were to be honored and protected (cf. Deuteronomy 14:29; 24:17, 19–21; Isaiah 1:17). Death was prescribed for one who afflicted a widow (Exodus 22:22–24). But these callous scribes were enriching themselves through the weakness of the widows. Then they offered long prayers, as if these could offset their sin. Instead, said Jesus, they would receive greater condemnation.
SACRIFICIAL GIVING COMMENDED: Mark 12:41–44
- The occasion (Mark 12:41–42): It is fitting that from the selfishness that cheated widows, Mark’s narrative moves next to the generosity of a poor widow. Jesus remained in the temple. in the Court of the Women where the treasury was located. There He watched while people in the Passover crowd put gifts into thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped openings. Jesus was interested not so much in how much the people gave as in how they gave. He observed many rich people tossing in impressive sums. Jesus’ attention was not drawn to these but to “a certain poor widow” (Mark 12:42). This word for “poor” speaks of the most abject destitution. A widow this poor, it would seem, could be excused if she gave nothing. But she “threw in two mites, which make a farthing.” These coins were the smallest copper coins in circulation at that time. Together they were equal in value to a Roman coin worth only one sixty-fourth of a denarius, which was a day’s wage.
- The lesson (Mark 12:43–44): By human estimation, the widow’s gift was too insignificant to matter. But to Jesus it was a worthy example for His disciples. Calling them to Him, He solemnly pronounced “Verily I say unto you,” that this widow had given more than all other contributors.
In Closing: Thus, God values a gift not by its size but by ir proportion to a giver’s resource (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:12). Surely this widow who gave God all she had was giving sincerely. She loved Him and trusted Him to supply her needs.
Giving from your heart is honored more by GOD!
Dr. Danette M. Vercher, Ph.D.