Follow His Steps Closely – Study 14/2021

 

“Christ suffered for you, leaving a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Peter 2:21.

[Study 14 from ws 4/21 p.2, June 6 – June 13, 2021]

 

Over a third of this Watchtower Study article is devoted to the account in Mark 12:41-44. It is therefore good for us also to examine the account closely.

Context is Everything

As always, it is best to read the context as that will better help us understand why Jesus raised this point, and if the interpretation that is being given to this scripture passage by the Organization is correct.

Mark 12:35 sets the scene as it tells us that Jesus was teaching in the temple.

A great crowd were listening to him teach with pleasure (Mark 12:37b).

A Lesson about desire for Prominence

So, Jesus warned them “Look out for the scribes that want to walk around in robes and want greetings in the marketplaces and front seats in the synagogues and most prominent places at evening meals.” (Mark 12:38-39). Why did he do that? Because he explained that “They [the scribes] are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers; these will receive a heavier judgment” (Mark 12:40).

From this section of scripture, therefore, it is clear that Jesus was warning the crowd not to become like the scribes. They wanted prominence everywhere. But Jesus was saying more than this.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 commanded the nation of Israel the following: “In case someone of your brothers [fellow Israelites] becomes poor among you in one of your cities, in your land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not harden your heart or be closefisted toward your poor brother. For you should generously open your hand to him …”. So those who were rich had a duty to help their fellow Israelites who might be poor, and widows were typically poor. Those rich scribes should be helping, otherwise the poor might have “to call out to Jehovah against you [those rich Israelites] and it has become a sin on your [those rich Israelites] part.” (Deuteronomy 15:9).

Helping the Poor

What provisions were there made for the poor to deal with their situation? In addition to the generosity of fellow Israelites they could also sell their land and or house for money until the next sabbath year or Jubilee or as a last resort themselves as laborers. However, it would be unlikely a widow could labor for someone. Therefore, if those rich scribes in their robes had been generous to the poor widows, they would not need to sell their land and homes. Yet according to Jesus, these scribes were devouring the houses of widows. Taking their homes instead of being generous to such ones.

Completing the Lesson – An example

Now, to complete the lesson Jesus just needed an example to illustrate his point. Now from his vantage point, he could see the treasury chests of the temple. Sure enough, as Mark 12:41 states “… many rich people were dropping in many coins.” In doing this they were making a show of their status as rich, and allegedly generous to God. But what happened then? Exactly what should not have happened. “A poor widow came and dropped in two small coins, which have very little value.” Mark 12:42. Yes, there was a poor widow, who only had two small coins. Furthermore, Jesus knew [miraculously] more about this poor widow. “… she, out of her want, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12:44). Yes, this widow was in a very bad position, one that the rich scribes should not have let her fall into. They allowed her to further impoverish herself, while they took the glory for their large contributions. Yet, according to the Mosaic Law, the rich scribes should have ensured that the widow did not get in such a poor state.

It was this situation that Jesus pointed out to the disciples. Here was exactly what he had been warning the crowd about earlier. A widow with nothing, destitute, while the scribes had everything and did nothing to help her. All they did was to pour large amounts of coins into the treasury so as to look good to onlookers instead of helping their poor fellow Israelite. Yes, they devoured {Greek word means “to leave nothing”) the houses of widows. Jehovah wanted those who were rich to look after their fellow Israelites, before contributing to the Temple and further enriching the scribes.

This passage of scripture had nothing to do with making a point that even if we are very poor, we should still contribute, ostensibly to Jehovah [but in reality, the money goes to men, like the scribes in Jesus’ day].

The Greatest Commandments

To confirm this understanding, if we look earlier in Mark 12:28-34 we see a scribe asked Jesus “Which commandment is first of all?”. What was Jesus’ reply? “Jesus answered:” The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with you whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’” But Jesus did not leave it there. Notice what he continued on to say. “The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”.

The scribe knew this to be true and said that loving God and “this loving one’s neighbour as oneself is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices [and contributions to the Temple treasury!]”. Yes, the scribe knew what was right. Showing love to God and neighbour was more important than contributions (which were a sacrifice if out of want, but not a sacrifice if out of surplus). Yet this was what most scribes were failing to practice, a love of neighbour.

On another occasion, a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him what he must do to gain everlasting life. Jesus replied (Matthew 19:21), “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower”. Why did Jesus give such replies and not say “Give money to the Temple”? Because caring for the poor showed love for God and their neighbours, in a way that contributions to a place of worship could never do.

Regardless of faith or belief, kindness to a neighbour was good. Supporting what one might think is God’s arrangement, but is not, was pointless. God, via his prophets such as Daniel and through his son Jesus, had foretold the destruction of the wicked and corrupt Jewish system of things, including the Temple. But acts of kindness would also be remembered by God.

Do Not Be Misled

Likewise, today. Do we have irrefutable proof that God or Jesus wants us to contribute to an Organization that claims to be God’s, just like the 1st Century Jewish Temple arrangement claimed to be God’s arrangement? Or does he want us to help our neighbour? Jesus repeatedly gave the same answer, to help our neighbour.

If we contribute to the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, do you know what the money is used for? There are no publicly available accounts, so how can we tell? There is no transparency. Even with this Watchtower study article, they are putting psychological pressure on all the widows and widowers and poor Witnesses to give contributions, and in doing so “devouring the houses of the widows”.

Yet the modern scribes, such as the Governing Body, wear Rolex watches, gold rings, expensive suits, and have no worries about paying the rent or where their next meal will come from. (Watch any monthly broadcast on JW Broadcasting to see evidence of this) And what is more, it is all paid for by mostly widows, and widowers, and the poor! After all, how many rich Witnesses do you know? Is this situation right? When was the last time the poor, whether Witnesses or not, got monetary help without strings attached, from the Organization?

Why not try asking your local elders if they will authorize the congregation to make a charitable donation to a poor brother or sister in need? See what their reaction will be. I can almost guarantee you the answer will be, “if they need help you can do that personally, but we cannot/will not use the congregation funds”.

Watch out for the  Leaven of the Modern Day Pharisees

Jesus said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees …” (Matthew 16:6).

If Jesus were here on earth today, would he not say, “Beware the leaven of the Governing Body”?

Did he not warn that those seeking prominence such as the Governing Body “are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers;” and that “these will receive a heavier judgment”. Mark 12:40.

 

A Widow’s mite coin

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