Jesus is painfully aware that we who compete, consume, and worry anxiously about ourselves may wear more than one face. In our self-identity, do we live our lives as chameleons and weather vanes or do we live faithfully, aware of the sovereignty and will of a gracious creator God? All of us are subject to Jesus’ scrutiny and judgment, for we all know the disorienting power of duplicity.
I read about a Nazi commandant of a concentration camp during World War II. Daily the acid clouds of smoke rose into the sky, signaling the burning of Jews during the Holocaust. He organized and oversaw cruelty of a type and scale that surpasses imagination. Yet at the end of the day, this German officer went home to his family where the members of the household moved sanctimoniously through a meal blessing in the hallowed tradition of their Christian denomination. While the chasm between public and private may seem much smaller for us, we constantly struggle for greater integrity.
Jesus describes the appearance of pillars of the community who, like a hungry dog going for a bone, frantically desire admiration, respect, and honor. But their public image conceals their greedy and evil exploitation of defenseless widows. As we turn inward, we see reflections of ourselves in Jesus’ words as we obey the contradictory wills of so many gods. Increased integrity and the consequent peace of mind wait for greater diligence in prayer on our part, for honest self-criticism and a calling up of the gifts of the Spirit offered by God. Let us open our clenched fists to receive the blessings of community, scripture, devotional discipline. We not only will be blessed but will become more of a blessing to this broken world.
Come, Holy Spirit. Lead me into the integrity and peace of serving the one true God of justice and healing. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The Hebrew writer builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
• Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. How has your life been enriched through the diversity of people around you?
• Read Psalm 127. How do you actively ensure the shaping of your household around godly practice?
• Read Hebrews 9:24-28. What spiritual income do you draw upon to keep your faith and hope alive?
• Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you guard against duplicitous living?
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