Sometimes a helpful way to read Scripture is to read a passage, to stop, and then to let one or two words to come to your mind.
When I did this with this reading from Mark the word humility immediately came to my mind.
The definition of the word humility is a modest view of one’s importance or the state of being humble.
Humility is not what the scribes or the religious leaders were demonstrating to others.
In fact, Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes.” The scribes placed more of an emphasis on looking good before other people than on matters of the heart.
In the Bible what Jesus is always concerned about is our hearts.
Jesus is always concerned about whether our lives are reflecting the wild and gracious love of God.
This kind of radical love is concerned about the widows and the poor and those who are left out and those who don’t necessarily fit in.
Jesus’ heart was and is always for these people.
So Jesus had no tolerance for those who, for the sake of appearance, put their pride above the well-being of their neighbors.
In this Scripture reading Jesus also brings to his disciples’ attention the offering gift of a poor widow.
The poor widow gives everything that she has, all that she has to live on is gone. I wonder now what the Scribes will do?
Will the scribes do something about this great injustice? Will the scribes reach out to the widow who now has nothing? Or will they continue to devour widows’ homes and houses with their greed and pride?
What will they do for this poor widow who has nothing?
Can they humble themselves in such a way so that they might reach out to this woman and care for this woman -this poor widow who gave everything that she had in trust and in love for God?
All people are important in God’s eyes. Will the scribes ever understand this truth?
Will their hearts turn in such a way so that they can see the dignity and beauty of this poor widow who is a witness to the kingdom of God?
Part of humility is in recognizing the infinite worth of another human being. Humility requires of us to avoid the temptation to overvalue ourselves over others.
This was the sin of the scribes.
And that is a journey.
That is a daily work for us. That is a way of living that God calls us to. We are to see the very image of God in one another.
But in our pride sometimes we need to be awakened to see this truth. Jesus one time said,
“Do you still not see or understand?… Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear?”
I recently heard about a strange smartphone app. If you download this app you will receive this same message five times a day.
The message is simply: “Don’t forget you are going to die.”
And so at random times during the day your phone will blink and the same message will appear: “Don’t forget you are going to die.”
I thought about downloading this app and trying it out for one week but then changed my mind.
There are two things that every human being must come to face in the course of their lives.
One is mystery. Life is mysterious. God is mysterious. Life is a mystery. In the face of mystery how do we make sense of life?
The second is that no matter how hard we might try to avoid it we all must face death.
A favorite theologian of mine, Marcus Borg wrote in his book, The Heart of Christianity, “…that none of us gets out of here alive. This is the fate of me and us and everybody that we love. Death will get us all.”
This truth is humbling. It is humbling to come face to face with mystery.
It is humbling to come face to face with death.
But the humility that comes from facing this this truth, and I might add from facing this great unknown of which we are all afraid of, frees us to place all of our trust in God.
Facing this fear that we all have can actually help us make the leap to placing our total trust in God.
Just like the widow who gave everything in trust and in love for God
-in acknowledging our limited understandings on life and in acknowledging our mortality we are freed from our pride to put all of our trust and all of our love into Christ.
Jesus the one who is gracious and life-giving even in the presence of the great unknowns of life, the great mysteries of life.
Jesus the one who is gracious and life-giving even at the hour of our deaths.
For in Christ there is resurrection and new life both here and now and eternal life in the age to come.
This new kind of humility leads to a transformed life marked by freedom, joy, peace, and love.
There is a very real death that happens within us still in this life as we put to death our pride and our selfish ways in order to follow Jesus.
And as we do so we trust that the one we walk with now is also the one into whom we will one day die, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.