by Christopher Harbin

What Do We Give?
Christopher B. Harbin
Mark 12:38-44

We live amid a complex array of priorities and claims on our resources. We are stretched for time, finances, energy, attention, and calls to champion various causes. Where do we find balance and direction amid the chaos of cries to apply our resources? How do we direct our attention to God and God's purposes amid the varied needs around us?

The people of Jesus' day had many of the same issues laying claim to their resources and attention. They found different ways to answer the cries. Different groups within Judaism had varied answers to those concerns. The Sadducees accepted issues of power and economic well-being as central to their view that life was only lived in this world. One must therefore care for one's comfort. The Pharisees looked further toward the coming of Messiah and sought to live in order to be welcome at the inauguration banquet of Messiah's reign. Their legalism was directed to that end. The scribes and rabbi's followed that line of thinking, yet often focused on their status within Judaism as all-important.

Jesus did not seem to share such concerns. In this passage of Mark, Jesus directly addresses concerns of status, importance and privilege. He addresses the legalism of the Pharisees, as well, though that may not be quite as clear on a surface reading. Rather than phrase his answer in terms of priorities, it seems he addresses the concerns behind our priorities. His answer cuts to the heart of it all. What are positioning ourselves to gain from our priorities, decisions, and purposes? When it gets down to it, what we are seeking matters more, for it directs the course of our lives.

The scribes in the story were not focused so much on offering anything to God, but in receiving recognition for their study and dedication. The Pharisees were focused on the blessings of participation in the Messianic banquet. The Sadducees were focused on comfort, power, and privil ...

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