“And in his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’” (Mark 12:38-40 ESV)
Jesus criticized the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the Jews. These men were too concerned with their self-righteousness and public image to attend to serving the Lord with proper worship, righteousness and justice. Although they claimed to love and serve God they did not. Rather they showed open disdain for Him by abusing their fellow Jews. They kept the poor in bondage while strutting around in their religious garb looking pious, enjoying the praises of men. Outward appearance was more important than true holiness.
Jesus took note of a poor widow whose gift, though small, was significant in the eyes of the Lord for it was given out of honor and love. This was in contrast to the huge gifts donated by the rich who gave only to look good and receive the honor and applause of men. The rich Jewish people of Jesus’ day and indeed the people of ancient Israel and Judah had always neglected the poorest people, the widows and orphans who had no one to care for them. This they did despite the fact that they claimed to be godly and righteous.
This should serve as a warning to us. Many Christians today are overly concerned with how they appear to others both in the church and the world. They give to look pious and holy. They care nothing for the poor. In addition, many avoid being open and honest before God and man, concerned as they are about looking holy and religious rather living a holy life. They would rather appear to be happy and upbeat in order to cover up their sins, failures, doubts and feelings of discouragement. Yet God cannot use those who are strong. He works through the weak to build His Kingdom.