Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts on Mark

When it comes to charity, there are generally two prevailing, conflicting thoughts on the issue: we have to obey the Scriptures by giving freely and generously, but we also must be “good stewards” of our resources, discriminating between worthy and unworthy causes. The result is bitter disputes among Christians, trying to figure out what’s required of them. Should we tithe or donate to a “Christian” organization whose leadership commits terrible offenses? Should we actively prevent others from doing so? That could make things bloody! I don’t have a good answer, but I’d like to cite a case before more Christians render their judgments.

A few months ago, I tackled the Gospel of Mark (assumed to be the Apostle Peter’s perspective) and was startled by a familiar story: “The Widow’s Offering” (12:41-44). I’ve heard about the widow who gave all she had since I was four years old. I’d read the story in and out of context a million times. Yet, something struck me as rather odd: this woman gave money to an apostate temple!

Consider the broader context: After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus Christ cleanses the temple, calling the priests and their staff of money-changers “robbers” (11:15-19). Then He continues to tell off the religious authorities in chapters 11 and 12. Jesus even warns that they parade around for the benefits while breaking the commandments to care for widows (12:38-40). After observing the generous widow, Christ then informs His disciples that the pretty-looking Herodian temple they were gushing over would be destroyed (13:1-2).

Now consider what would’ve happened today: Christians publically denounce churches and para-church organizations for not staying true to biblical doctrine. And anyone who’d dare render a tithe, offering, or donation would be chided or even harassed for their decisions to give. But Jesus Christ didn’t even try to stop the widow from giving all she had to the Lord, even though the earthly benefactors were those he constantly denounced. Maybe the heart of the one doing the supporting really does matter more than who gets supported.