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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 20:45-21:4: A Contrast of Service
Luke 20:45-21:4: A Contrast of Service Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 October 2013
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Sometimes a contrast is as plain as day and night.  The difference between two people is clear.  We see this in everything from politics to athletics to neighbors.  Some people are thankful, others are ungrateful.  Some people are polite, others are rude.  Some people are honest, others will lie to you even if they know you know the truth.  Sometimes the contrast is easy to see.  We have seen such obvious contrasts in the Gospel of Luke.  For example, the contrast between Mary’s longing to sit at Jesus’ feet and Martha’s insistence upon her helping out is plain (10:38-42).  The contrast between the Rich Man and Lazarus stretched all the way from this life into the life to come (16:19-31).  And the contrast between the Pharisees’ trust in himself and the tax collector’s cry for mercy is clear in Jesus’ parable (18:9-14).  In each of these contrasts, we see an action or attitude that we are to avoid and an action or attitude that we are to imitate.

In our passage this morning, we see another obvious contrast between the scribes and the poor widow.  Once again we see something to avoid and something to imitate.  Although the chapter break might lead us to think that these stories are unrelated, I think Luke places them back to back for a reason and it seems that they happened at the same time (notice the language in 21:1).  Thus, I want us to examine the contrast between these two and note what we are to avoid and what we are to imitate.  We will begin with the scribes and what we are to avoid.

Avoid the hypocrisy of the scribes (20:45-47)

Luke 20 has shown us Jesus’ interactions with the scribes and the chief priests.  The religious leaders have not fared well in the Gospel of Luke.  They have questioned Jesus at almost every point.  They have rejected Him as the Messiah and committed themselves to destroying His ministry and ultimately His life (11:53-54, 16:14, 19:47-48).  And Jesus has continually rebuked them for their lack of faith and disobedience (11:37-52, 12:1-3, 18:9-14).  In fact, one of my commentators writes: “Most churches would not tolerate the kinds of things that Jesus said about religious people.” Jesus was never afraid to speak the truth and call people to repentance.  He did this regularly with the scribes and Pharisees.

After He asks them the question concerning their interpretation of Psalm 110 and gets no answer, He gives a sharp rebuke of them in 20:45-47a.  Look at that with me.  The scribes longed for recognition.  They were willing to serve, but not for nothing.  They wanted to wear the nice clothes, be greeted in the streets, and sit in the VIP section at the synagogue and the feasts.  They wanted all the perks that came with being the religious leaders of the day.  And apparently they wanted those far more than they wanted to just serve the Lord.  Not only that, they also used their influence to take advantage of the widows by encouraging them to ‘donate’ their money to the ministry (sounds like some similar practices going on today with certain TV preachers).  Finally, Jesus rebukes them for making long prayers for pretense.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with praying long prayers at times, but when they are done simply to make others think that you are ‘spiritual’, then there is a problem.  This is a serious rebuke of the scribes.  In short, they are hypocrites.  Instead of serving in obedience to God and for His glory, they are only serving for recognition and praise of themselves.

Jesus ends the rebuke with a strong warning.  Look at verse 47b.  The scribes will receive the greater condemnation for their hypocrisy.  We are not told what exactly the greater condemnation will be, but it is clear from this passage and others that there will greater condemnation for those who had more opportunities to know and believe the truth about God.  Such a thought can raise many questions for us, but I think we need to see it for what it is: a serious warning against hypocrisy. 

We absolutely cannot afford to be hypocritical in our relationship with God.  We must avoid this.  Truth is, we have been blessed with knowledge about God.  We have His Word, we know about Jesus, we can come to Church each week and learn more about what it means to faithfully follow after Him.  Thus, if we are just faking our relationship with Christ, then we are in a terrible place.  Such hypocrisy will receive fierce judgment.  As a pastor, I take this warning very seriously.  I do not want to serve to be recognized by men.  I do not want the praise of men at the expense of pleasing God.  I beg you to hold me accountable and to warn me if you ever see such hypocrisy in my life.  We must do this for each other.  And we must recognize how subtle hypocrisy can be at times.  For example, any time we think: ‘I deserve better than this,’ we can be starting down a dangerous road.  We must be open and hones with ourselves and with each other.  We must avoid pretense.  One commentator writes: “Whatever we are or are not, let us be what we are before God and a watching world.  If we are sinners, let us admit that we are sinners, and seek to be saved by grace.  If we are not very good Christians, let us admit that we are not very good Christians, and ask God to make us better.”2  Let’s just be open and honest and avoid the hypocrisy of the scribes. 

Imitate the sacrifice of the widow (21:1-4)

The entirety of chapter 20 takes place in and around the Temple.  The chapter began with Jesus teaching the gospel there (20:1) and moves through His interactions with the scribes and the chief priests.  As He finishes His rebuke of them, He looks up and sees some rich people making their offering.  Look at verse 1.  The offering box consisted of thirteen trumpet shaped receptacles, where people could come by and drop in their money.  Jesus notices some rich people doing this, apparently their clothes and/or how much money they gave made it clear that they were rich.  Perhaps they gained attention from those in the Temple because of their dress or how much money they gave.  Perhaps they made a show of it.  However it played out, it seems that people’s attention were drawn to these wealthy people and the money they were giving.

But not Jesus.  He focuses His attention on someone else.  Look at verse 2.  Jesus sees this widow putting in two small copper coins.  The money that she put in did not have much monetary value.  It was worth very little compared to all that the rich were putting in.  Yet, Jesus apparently counts value differently than we do.  Look at His comment in verses 3.  According to Jesus if you added up all that the rich were giving and compared it to what the widow gave, she put in more.  The two small copper coins that she contributed was worth more than all of their offerings added together.  How could that be?

Jesus tells us in verse 4.  Look at that with me.  The rich were giving out of their abundance.  They had a lot of money to begin with and even after they gave they had plenty left over.  Their giving was great, but the cost of the giving to them was minimal.  But not the widow.  She did not have much money and what little she had she was willing to give to the Lord.  Her sacrifice was far greater than that of the wealthy.  Thus, Jesus does not count value like we count value.  We add up the dollars and see how much someone gave, but Jesus looks at something else.  Another commentator writes: “Thus the main point (of this passage) appears to be that God measures the gifts of his people not on the basis of their size but on the basis of how much remains.”3  He values the sacrifice that His people make in order to serve others.

We should imitate the sacrifice of the widow.  She stands in stark contrast to the scribes.  They wanted recognition.  They wanted comfort and ease.  They wanted ‘the good things in life.’  She simply wanted to faithfully serve her God and to give sacrificially to Him.  So then, let me ask the hard question that we all want to avoid: are you giving of sacrificially of yourself?  What are you sacrificing in your service to God?  We tend to take a different approach at times.  One commentator writes: “What we give to God deserves priority.  He should not receive our leftovers.  As is all too common, the leftovers mysteriously shrink in size to take care of things that are not necessities.  On the other hand, giving to God that is set aside from the first inevitable limits what we use for ourselves.”4  That is a good challenge to us all, myself included.  Am I just giving leftovers to God?  Or am I sacrificially giving God trusting that He will provide for all my needs?  We should imitate the sacrificial giving of the widow.

In this contrast we see that we should avoid the hypocrisy of the scribes and imitate the sacrifice of the widow.  The greatest example of both of these characteristics is Jesus Himself.  Paul tells us that when Jesus became a man He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:6-7).  He was God in the flesh, but He did not sit upon thrones and rule over mankind.  He did not wear fancy clothes and demand the best seats.  He came to serve.  He came to touch the lepers and call the sinners.  He humbled Himself before men He created.  He was and is the ultimate example of humility.

And He is the ultimate example of self-sacrifice as well.  Paul continues: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).  Jesus humbled Himself to death.  And who did He do this for?  Paul writes elsewhere that He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).  Jesus sacrificed Himself at the cross to redeem us and save us from our sins.  He has come to Jerusalem to die on a tree for us.  And He did this so that we would be zealous for good works.  Not because we want the recognition.  Not because we want the good life.  Not because we think we have to earn our way to Heaven.  No, we are zealous for good works because of all that He has already done for us.  So then, don’t be a hypocrite.  Be open and hones about your sin and come to the Savior.  And give sacrificially, not because you are trying to earn anything, but simply because you have already been given so much in Christ!  Amen.

1 Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, Vol. 2 REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), p. 398.
2 Ibid., p. 404.
3 Robert H. Stein, Luke NAC (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), p. 509.
4 Darrell L. Bock, Luke NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p.528.

~ William Marshall ~


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