Tony's Reflection 93 

Warren Buffett was ranked by Forbes as the richest man in the world back in 2008, worth some £50 billion. At 92, he is still recognised as one of the world’s best investment managers, but he has slipped down in the world wealth rankings.

Why? Due to a remarkable pledge…

Even though he is now worth roughly £100 billion, he has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune by the time he dies. He says he wants to leave his three children, “Enough so they can do anything, but not so much they do nothing.”

Not only is Buffett one of the richest men in the world, many see him as the world’s greatest philanthropist.

Great wealth, great generosity - yet even the remaining 1% of his wealth will be beyond the wildest dreams of most. He gives from his plenty. Impressive he may be, but that’s not what makes a truly great giver, as Mark shows us in today’s episode (
Mark 12:41-44).

The weight of expectation has lain heavy on Jesus’ shoulders. Hundreds had followed him on the journey up to the temple, eager to see what Messiah would do when he arrived at the pulsating heart of national life. Call down God’s power to smash the might of the Roman oppressors, perhaps?

That question about paying tax to Caesar had been a golden opportunity to start the revolution, yet Jesus had let it go begging.

He seems more interested in putting a bomb under the religious establishment than under the Roman Empire. Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees and scribes. The Galilean has taken on all comers from among the nation’s elite, emerging unscathed.

He has taught the masses. No cold intellectual exercise this. He has poured out heart and soul, as he convinced and convicted them their view of the Messiah was too small.

His passion denouncing the religious posturing and posing of the scribes had emptied him of what remaining energy he had. His love for his Father was red-hot and for Jesus, God deserved and demanded nothing less than the best from everyone. Leaders of Israel who gave God show rather than substance, having the audacity to act like they could shortchange the Almighty, left him incensed.

How that flame had burned as he thought about the way those scribes treated the widows. The widows had no one to fend for them. They fell prey to every Lothario or con-merchant out there.

They could, of course, always turn to the men in the temple, the spiritual fathers of the land, who would protect those vulnerable, lonely women. They could rely on the leaders and exemplars of their religion to do the right thing by them. But that was the problem. They couldn’t.

The same scribes who made such flashy prayers, always with one eye making sure they were being watched by the right people, were ripping off the widows - right under God’s eyes, in the temple itself.

Their two-faced religious playacting had been petrol on the flames of Jesus’ anger.

And now, he was burnt out. The crowd had sensed the “show was over” and had dispersed, to get on with their religious holiday busyness in the temple. Jesus has lost himself in the buzz and bustle of the sanctuary courtyard. Even his immediate disciples have gone off to enjoy the tourist sights of the temple, leaving Jesus to the solitude of his thoughts. He sits, anonymous, one pilgrim among thousands, people-watching.

Opposite him was one of the 13 collection boxes in the courtyard. The carpenter admires the lushly polished timber that made the exquisite casket, with its bronze trumpets stretching upward, begging the passers-by to drop in their donations. Commercialisation is rampant and the temple authorities never miss a chance to fleece a few more coins out of the pilgrims.

There is no shortage of donors, today. A constant throng mill, eager to deposit their money. Some with sincere hearts eager to give. Others thinking the more they put in, the more God will bless them in exchange. Many were obviously opulent, looking splendid in their rich robes. They make great show. Opening their wallets, they pull out handfuls of money, exposing just enough of it between their fingers, so everyone can see they are putting plenty in and be duly impressed by the cascade of glistening gold coins clattering their way down the trumpets and into the box.

Neither their ostentation nor the large amounts given make any impression on Jesus. After all, they are giving out of their plenty and the admiring glances of bystanders, as their coins of gold glide into the collection box, is the only reward they will get.

A lone woman catches Jesus’ eye. She looks ragged and dishevelled, still wearing mourning clothes. There is a tired sadness etched into the crags of her face and an emptiness in her eyes. A widow, obviously. She shuffles up to the collection box and melts back into the crowd as quickly as she can, hoping nobody has heard the embarrassingly small clink as her two tiny coins rattle down the bronze trumpets.

Jesus is suddenly animated once more. He beckons to the disciples. He points out the woman and whispers to them, so as not to embarrass her by his attention.

“See that widow,” his voice breaks with sheer emotion. He is deeply touched. “She gave more than any of these rich. They gave of their plenty, but she put in all that she had.”

This dear woman had given sacrificially, to support the work of the temple and the self same scribes who, given half a chance, would milk her of whatever she had left.

The poor give what they don’t have to keep it going, but the temple they love coldly, callously bleeds them dry. Judgement, when it comes, will be severe and deserved. 
signed Tony