“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and 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.” - Luke 20:46-47
What was the role of a scribes during the time of Jesus? Not only did they write down the religious laws of the Pharisees, but they also had the sole authority to write legal documents for divorce, loans, mortgages, inheritance, and land sales. Being the sole writers of legal documents gave the scribes tremendous power over the lives of men and women, but especially of women.
In this passage, Jesus severely rebukes scribes for “devouring” widow’s houses. The financial security of women was not provided for under Jewish law. Daughters inherited nothing unless there were no sons. A woman was bound to marry the man her father chose. When a husband predeceased his wife, the property and dowry went to the deceased man’s brothers along with the option of marrying the widow. The widow was bound to marry even if she despised him. Otherwise, the widow and her children became destitute. Unable to work outside the home, widows often became beggars or prostitutes in order to survive and provide for their children. The scribes sanctimoniously followed the laws of the Pharisees, instead of following God’s laws.
As we go about our different roles at home, at work, and within our community and world, whose laws we are following?
As mothers, fathers, single adults, workers and students do we wear veneers of kindness, gentleness, and compassion in public yet display very different behavior towards those closest to us? Whose laws are we following?
How do we treat the most vulnerable in our society? Do we self-righteously look down upon them as lazy people who refuse to work? Do we believe everyone has equal opportunity regardless of ethnicity, family background, sexual orientation, innate ability, educational opportunity, and mental health status? Do we donate time and money to help the most vulnerable in our society? Do we use our vote to support candidates who work for social, racial, and economic justice for all? Whose laws are we following?
Consider our role as citizens in this deeply divided country. No matter where we reside on the political spectrum, do we follow the laws of our tribe or the laws of God which lift up caring for others, forgiveness, loving our enemies, seeking peace and unity, and granting grace to others as our Lord grants grace to us? Whose laws are we following?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to be mindful of following your ways. We know Jesus Christ is the source of our compassion, grace and love. Help us to search our thoughts and actions so that we may pass on your compassion, grace, and love to others as we play out the different roles in our lives. Amen