Tuesday, February 9, 2010
2/9/10 Mark 12:38-40 Religion is not for Show
38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."
Calvin abridged: In order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the people, the scribes carried the commandments of God magnificently inscribed on their garments. But by making perfect righteousness consist in the clothes they wore, they despised the Law of God in their everyday life. How can one treat the Law of God with worse contempt that by imagining that they kept it by pompous dress or thinking that wearing a play-mask was keeping the Law. While long robes are common in Eastern countries today, the scribes wore the robes similar to the prophets (Zech 13:4). The purpose of their robes was to be simple and modest, but some today wear robes to show their power and tyranny over the people. The scribes sought the first places and first seats to exalt themselves above other people, more than to enjoy the favor of God.
Thoughts: Niebuhr said that human pride was the root of all sin. Pride manifests itself worst in religious politics- when people jockey to exalt themselves- perhaps in the name of exalting their point of view. John Leith used to say that the more colorful our robes and stoles became the more we moved away from the Word of God. When he said this I thought he was out in left field. Today, there is such an emphasis on informality in worship that we might say the more we emphasize entertainment and applause in worship, the more we move away from the Word of God. I have heard many preachers who not only get an “amen” (which I might welcome every blue moon) but people applaud their words in their sermons, and expect applause for the choir or praise band. Clapping out of joy is one thing- or even to clap to the glory of God- but applauding for a good job is another. It is hard to distinguish between the two. The point is, true religion does not try to please people- but tries to please God. There is no place for being fake or wearing masks in religion- where God sees all. Fake smiles- saying “I’m happy, happy, happy all the time” can be a similar thing. Real "Hypocrisy" means to wear a mask (like the Greek actors did) to hide who we really are.
Prayer: Lord, we cannot hide our sin or our sadness from you. Help us to see there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Help my faith to be sincere and true to you.