The Attitude That Matters
A daily devotion for January 23rd
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."
32"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
35While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
" 'The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet." ' 37David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
38As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."
41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny.
43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on (Mark 12:43b-44).
The religious performance among these scribes and Pharisees had reached such an absurd state of affairs that some of the Pharisees, before they made their contribution to the great collection box Jesus was watching here, actually summoned a trumpeter to go before them to get everybody's attention. Then the Pharisee would come up and proudly deposit a bag of gold in the treasury chest. He wanted everybody to see his ample gift.
I heard about a dear man standing up in a meeting where an offering was taken who said,
I want to give $100—anonymously. But in this passage Jesus said the one who really moved His heart and contributed tremendously to the kingdom of God was a little unnamed, unknown widow who had no influence, who had no outward posture of being worth anything. She came and put in two tiny coins that added up to no more than a penny; but because she loved the Lord her God with all her heart, all her soul, all her strength, and all her mind, she gave it. And Jesus said,
She has done more for the kingdom of heaven than all the outward performances of all these others combined. What is that saying to us?
We are so intent upon the fact that God wants some kind of activity on our part. We think that the way to serve God is to do spectacular or showy things—to win a lot of people to Christ or to give our time or work in open ways. Yet the Scriptures tell us over and over that works are just the channel. God wants performance, but only if the attitude of our heart is right. If you cannot do anything outwardly, your attitude may still be right—your attitude toward your neighbor and friends and your children and your husband and your wife and your boss and those who irritate you. If your attitude is one of love, love received from the God who loves you, then you are advancing the kingdom of God far, far more than all that is done outwardly by the greatest saints of our day and time.
Is that not amazing! God says,
You can serve me in the quiet of your home and by the gentle, sweet spirit that you display in the midst of pressures and problems. You have done more to advance the kingdom of God than those who get out and proclaim the word on public address systems everywhere. That is the way God sees life.
That is both discouraging and encouraging. It is discouraging for those of us who have a public ministry. We are mentally jotting down in the back of our minds how impressed God ought to be with our performance. But God is looking at our heart. This is encouraging for us to remember in those private moments when our attitude changes. Nobody was watching, nobody saw what we were thinking, yet, instead of being short and caustic and sarcastic, we were sweet and patient and gentle. Jesus says the kingdom of God is advanced by that attitude.
Lord, You have called me to this way of life, and You must empower it. Help me to be a loving instrument expressing Your quality of life today.
Life Application: What is Jesus' view of pious religiosity? Why was it necessary for him to so severely denounce this sinful conduct in those proclaiming to know God? What's our attitude?
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