International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 27, 2015
Purpose: To develop the practice of giving from gratitude, faith, and compassion
Bible Lesson: Matthew 23:1-12; Mark 12:38-44
Key Verse: “All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.” (Matthew 23:12)
Matthew 23:2-12 (CEB)
(2) “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. (3) “Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. (4) For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. (5) Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. (6) They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. (7) They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’ (8) “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. (9) Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. (10) Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. (11) But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. (12) All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
Mark 12:38-44 (CEB)
(38) As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. (39) They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. (40) They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.” (41) Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. (42) One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. (43) Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. (44) All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
For me this lesson is about ethics, especially as it applies to church leaders, politicians, business leaders, and all Christians. We cannot be hearers of the word only, we must be doers of the word. The principles that Jesus talks about in these two text make good sense, but acting in the fashion he presents is not always easy.
Many of us like to show off our holiness, one way or another. We may not wear scripture on our forehead, but we are quick to quote it to those we consider less holy. We may not dress so that our holiness is visible to everyone, although, there are those that do.
I think Jesus wants us to be humble in our worship and in our devotion. Christianity is not for “show-offs.” Although there are some in authority and on display that make you wonder. Jesus always taught us to pray in our closet, and never let the right hand know what the left hand is giving.
I think giving robustly and bragging about it is far worse than not giving your tithe. If we did not get any recognition or a tax write off would we still give the same? The widow in our text gave everything she had, she could have asked and received a portion of those gifts given, but she wanted to participate, and that is important for us to understand. Maybe some of the people we help would just as soon be able to give of themselves for others. After all Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give, than to receive.” Poor people would like to be included in the blessing of giving.
I hope all of you remember this lesson as you give and receive gifts this year. I also hope each of you have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
My hymn is from Psalm 98, and we sing it as a Christmas hymn, but Psalm 98 is about Jesus coming in final victory to rule over all the earth, “Joy to the World.” It is not just for Christmas and Advent.