After a positive exchange with a scribe, which we heard about in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proceeded to discuss the negative practices of other scribes he had encountered.
Jesus points to men entrusted with religious leadership who have turned their positions of trust into a means for selfish gain and aggrandizement. These scribes focus on what they can get rather than what they can give.
Their long robes, expensive and impractical for manual labor, identify them as professionals. The tassels on their robes are intended to be a reminder of the Mosaic Law (Numbers 15:38), but the excessive length is for show (Matthew 23:5). Jesus has no more respect for long tassels than He does for large offerings.
The scribes relish the public honor that accompany their positions. In the marketplace, people rise respectfully when they approach. In the synagogue, scribes sit in seats of honor on the dais facing the congregation — seeing, but more importantly, being seen.
These are temptations for every age. Who does not like red carpet treatment? Who does not enjoy wearing finely tailored clothes? Who does not enjoy being addressed by honorific titles? All of these can be innocent or corrosive, depending on how they affect our relationships.
Juxtaposed with the scribal class is the widow in the second part of the passage. She, too, becomes an example in Jesus’ teaching, a positive object lesson. Jesus’ observation and teaching about the “poor widow” who sacrificed all that she had is a natural progression from His critique of scribal abuse of widows’ homes.
Jesus does not condemn the large gifts of wealthy people but says that the poor widow’s offering is even larger. He measures the widow’s gift based not on the amount she gives but on the amount she keeps back for her own use—nothing!
Jesus’ appraisal of the widow’s two small coins reveal that what is measured is not the size of the gift, but the size of the heart. The small coins most likely hardly made a sound as she dropped them into the metal receptacles. But Jesus noticed the two small clinks and understood and treasured their significance.
Give a little of your treasured time to ponder God’s word—he’ll notice!