Scripture: Mark 12:35-44
Reflection: Several years ago, I sat down for coffee with a young adult who wanted to get involved in church, but wasn’t sure she could take the plunge. We talked about the many reasons she had for that. A few were theological questions, but mostly, she was concerned about what she called the “behavior mismatch” she observed in many so-called religious people. Espousing a God of grace, they seemed awfully ready to pass judgment on those with whom they disagreed. Speaking about the God of love in one breath, they seemed quite ready to talk about the things and people that God hated in the next. Christians, in particular, had come to be defined by what (and whom) they were against, than what (and whom) they were for – and this concerned her.
If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we should also be concerned about the “behavior mismatch” that bothered my friend so much, because it concerned Jesus as well. In fact, throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, he was constantly calling people of faith to reevaluate their faith practices, and the way their theological beliefs intersected with their daily living. Here, in the gospel of Mark, we are given a story where Jesus calls for a real integrity for those who would practice (and, in this case, be a leader in) faith. He tells his followers to be wary of those who love the pageantry and show of religious prestige while at the same time being party to great injustice in the community. Here, the scribes love to walk around in long robes and say long prayers and be treated as honored guests (that’s the pageantry!) while they also allow the most vulnerable in their community to be taken advantage of in order to line their own coffers (see 12:40, 41-44 – the generous widow should be praised for her generosity, but a case might also be made that those overseeing the treasury might be engaged in predatory practices).
Perhaps this passage provides an opportunity for each of us to examine where the “behavior mismatches” in our own walks of faith might be. Perhaps it is an invitation for us to consider our own behavior around worship and giving (do we love the fanfare of a Sunday morning, but fail to seek out ways to live in more just and merciful ways alongside our neighbors?). More broadly, perhaps it is an invitation to prayer, that God might show us where we have failed to live according to Christ’s example, so that we might also ask for guidance in how to align our “walk” with our “talk.”
Prayer: Guide me, O God, as I seek to follow you in all my ways, and give me courage to open myself up to your leading, not so that I can earn your love, but so that I can reflect it in my living, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].