The Seduction of the Seat Of Honor
For the almost three weeks in Kenya I hardly ever got to carry my computer backpack. Timothy, a younger pastor, almost always grabbed it first because in their culture the older guy is to be honored. This meant that the ladies made sure to bring the water basin for washing hands to me first at meals, pointed to the seat of honor right beside the host bishop for me to sit in, and before I got up to teach, one of the host pastors always bubbled with thanks and appreciation that we had come.
They definitely took Moses command in Leviticus seriously, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man…” (Lev. 19:32). And I could get used to this kind of treatment, but then Jesus warns me about the seduction of the seats of honor.
Look at what Jesus had to say to the religious leaders who loved to dress in their fine robes, pray those glorious pastoral prayers, and receive their people’s adulation and praise.
“As Jesus continued to teach, he said, ‘Beware of the religious legal experts. They love to parade around in long flowing robes and receive greetings in the marketplace. They love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the highest chair at banquets. These are the very ones who are devouring the homes of widows at the very same time as they are praying those showy, pious prayers prayed more for their audience than to God. These will receive a far greater judgment.” Mark 12:38-40
As Mark continues to expose us to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple during his final week in Jerusalem, we need to remember what he has already told us about these pompous religious leaders. They fear the loss of their constituency more than honoring those who tell the truth (11:32, 12:12).
In order to maintain their position and power over God’s people, they plot the murder of God’s Son (12:1-12), and though Mark exposed us to one scribe who honestly interacted with Jesus, in today’s passage he returns to the dominant evil nature of this group. They love their positions of honor and prestige while they rob widows. Remember how Jesus accused them in an earlier episode of using legal loopholes so that adult children wouldn’t have to care for their parents in their old age; thus, nullifying the 5thcommandment (Mark 7:5-13)
We must live in these episodes and allow Jesus’ point of view to cause us to be repulsed by these character traits and actions of Jesus’ enemies. This means I must not be seduced by the “seats of honor” or hunger for respect. I need to take the lowly seats and be with the common folks, especially those who the secular world treats with dishonor and disrespect.
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