Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees, Who are they?

Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees. Who are they?

How can we identify the Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees. Who are they? Indeed are there any today?

Religions, especially Christian religions often use the Mosaic Law regarding tithing to impose financial burdens on their mainly poor congregations. Alternatively, they may on the surface rely on voluntary donations, but in reality put psychological pressure on their congregants to donate, such as by passing around a money plate in public at a religious service to shame the attendees into contributing. Or maybe they will also apply pressure by impassioned speeches and talks delivered extolling the example of the Widow who gave two small coins to the treasury of the Temple in Jesus day.

It is also a common theme of all religions that the more you donate to “God” (in reality their religion), the happier God will be so they say, (how can we know God’s mood?), and God will bless us, (allegedly with more money).

So To Donate or Not to Donate? If so to whom? That is the question.

Is the way religions act today what Jesus intended and wanted?

Does God want or expect us to support a religious organization today with our free labor and our hard-earned money?

If not, what does he encourage us to do to make use of the time and money that we are able to spare?

How do the scriptures answer the important question “To donate, or not to donate? If so, to whom?”?

As we start this examination of the account regarding the Widow and her donation of two mites, (small coins) to the Herodian Temple treasury we need to bear in mind a few simple principles. They are as follows:

Context is Everything

As with any Bible study, it is always best to read and know the context, both the immediate context and the larger context.

The immediate context which is the preceding chapter(s) and the following chapter(s), assists us to understand the timeframe and the environment that was present at the time the Bible passage is referring to. It also usually assists in giving a reason or strong indication for why the passage being reviewed was included.

The larger context is finding and examining other scripture passages which discuss related topics, and in particular, especially if these are from the same speaker or writer. This is because any understanding of the passage being studied should agree with the understanding conveyed by other Bible passages.

The Scripture Passages under Consideration

Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4.

The immediate context extends at a minimum from Mark 12:13-40 to Mark 13:1-37, and a parallel account from Luke 20:1-47 to Luke 21:5-36. Jesus is the main speaker here and it is his words about the widow we are examining.

The Larger Context would include Mark 7:1-23 where Jesus discussed the practice of “Corban”. Others include Matthew 16:16-24, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-30 about the young man who wanted to get everlasting life.

The Wider Context would include Deuteronomy 26:1-15, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, and Deuteronomy 15:1-15 regarding the use of the tithe in the Mosaic law, which many Christian religions use as the basis for their tithing.

An Overview of the Immediate Context of Mark 12:41-44

  • Pharisees and Party followers of Herod try to catch Jesus in his speech regarding the head tax. (Mark 12:13-17)
  • Sadducees question Jesus about the resurrection. (Mark 12:28-27)
  • Then a scribe asks Jesus “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus replies it is:
    • loving “Jehovah your God with your whole heart, and your whole soul …” and
    • The second is this, You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-34)
  • Jesus is teaching in the Temple (Mark 12:35-37)
  • Jesus draws attention to the scribes, “Look out for the scribes that want to walk around in robes and want greetings in the marketplaces, and front seat in the synagogues and the most prominent places at evening meals.” All these things get the scribes noticed by men, as opposed to by God. But what do they do secretly? Jesus next says, “They are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers; these will receive a heavier judgment.” (Mark 12:38-40)
  • Viewing the crowd passing the treasury chests, Jesus comments on the Widow. (Mark 12:41-44)
  • Disciple points out the grandeur of the Temple. (Mark 13:1)
  • Jesus’ reply to this comment is to sit on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple and give the prophecy regarding the destruction of that very Temple. (Mark 13:2-37)

The context of the account of the widow is therefore found between the scribes and their showy way of life and contempt for the principles of proper heartfelt love for God and their neighbor, while on the other hand taking homes from the defenseless widows, and a warning that the Temple to which all looked was soon going to be destroyed. The implication of this is that God did not appreciate the showy form of worship that was being carried on.

An Overview of the Immediate Context of Luke 21:1-4

  • Jesus is teaching in the Temple. Illustration of the vineyard and cultivators who kill the slave sent by the owner. (Luke 20:1-18)
  • Pharisees and Party followers of Herod try to catch Jesus in his speech regarding the head tax. (Luke 20:19-26)
  • Sadducees question Jesus about the resurrection. (Luke 20:27-44)
  • Jesus draws attention to the scribes, “Look out for the scribes who desire to walk around in robes and like greetings in the marketplaces, and front seats in the synagogues and most prominent places at evening meals.” All these things get the scribes noticed by men, as opposed to by God. But what do they do secretly? Jesus next says, “and who devour the houses of the widows and for a pretext make long prayers. These will receive a heavier judgment.” (Luke 21:45-47)
  • Viewing the rich making gifts to the treasury chests, Jesus comments on the needy Widow. (Luke 21:1-4)
  • Disciple(s) make comments about the Temple and its fine stones and dedicated things. Jesus responds by prophesying about the destruction of the Temple. (Luke 21:5-36)

As with the Book of Mark, the context of the account of the widow is therefore found between the scribes and their showy way of life and contempt for the principles of proper heartfelt love for God and their neighbor, instead, they actually make the widows even poorer, and a warning that the Temple to which all looked was soon going to be destroyed. The implication of this is that God did not appreciate the showy form of worship that was being carried on.

Immediate Context: Lesson – Scribes and Pharisees would receive heavier Judgement. (They desired Prominence and did not show True Love for One’s Neighbors)

Jesus warned the crowd that was listening to him teaching that they were to “Look out for the scribes that want to walk around in robes and want greetings in the marketplaces and front seats in the synagogues and most prominent places at evening meals.” (Mark 12:38-39). Why did he do that? Because he explained that “They [the scribes] are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers; these will receive a heavier judgment” (Mark 12:40).

In what way were the scribes devouring the houses of widows? The word translated as “devouring” is “katesthio This means “to eat all the way down”, “utterly devour”, and “ferociously consume all the way down leaving only ruination, without hope of recovery”. Jesus also accused the scribes of doing this in Matthew 23:14 among his series of “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites …” according to some manuscripts, (Other manuscripts omit this verse).

From this section of scripture, therefore, it is clear that Jesus was warning the crowd not to become like the scribes. They wanted prominence everywhere. But Jesus was saying more than this.

Immediate Context: Lesson – Do not Look to impressive Buildings or Institutions

Both the accounts of Mark and Luke follow on from the account of the widow’s donation with a reference to the Temple, the subject of the widow’s donation.

When at least one disciple commented on the grandeur of the stones (some of the stones in Herod’s Temple were massive and impressive even by today’s standards) and the grandeur of the buildings of the Temple.

What was Jesus’ comment in reply? What he replied and did not reply is telling about his view. Did Jesus say that the Temple needed the widow’s small coins to maintain such buildings as a glory to God? Did he say that those coins would be well spent? Did he say that the widow’s attitude was a fine one to follow?

No, to the contrary. The very next thing he discussed, spending a considerable time on it, was giving signs to his disciples as to when all those grandiose buildings would be destroyed. That it would be within the lifetime of the generation that was rejecting him as the Messiah. This prophecy was fulfilled within 40 years in AD 70. With this background, it would seem strange for Jesus to commend the actions of the widow. It would be even stranger to set her as an example to follow, given it was to support something that was already earmarked for destruction.

Larger Context: What did Jesus teach regarding “Corban” and say about the Scribes and Pharisees?

We find one account where Jesus discusses Corban in Mark 7:9-13 which recounts “Further, he [Jesus] went on to say to them: “Adroitly YOU set aside the commandment of God in order to retain YOUR tradition. 10 For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ 11 But YOU men say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother: “Whatever I have by which you may get benefit from me is corban, (that is, a gift dedicated to God,)”’— 12 YOU men no longer let him do a single thing for his father or his mother, 13 and thus YOU make the word of God invalid by YOUR tradition which YOU handed down. And many things similar to this YOU do.”

By the first Century AD, one of the traditions the Pharisees held to was that of “Corban”. In Matthew 15:3-9 Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in very strong terms about this. The account records Jesus’ words: “In reply he said to them: “Why is it YOU also overstep the commandment of God because of YOUR tradition? 4 For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ 5 But YOU say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have by which you might get benefit from me is a gift dedicated to God,” 6 he must not honor his father at all.’ And so YOU have made the word of God invalid because of YOUR tradition. 7 YOU hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about YOU, when he said, 8 ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. 9 It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.”.

This short passage makes it clear what Jesus’ view was on the relative merits of ostensibly giving to God, and omitting to take care of one’s parents. The Pharisee’s tradition put ‘giving to God‘ and hence to the priests and scribes, above the obligation to look after their elderly parents. This was a tradition that was completely at odds with the requirement to honor their father and mother. Jesus went so far as to say they were making the word of God invalid, i.e. ignoring it, or overruling it.

Therefore, went it came to the case of the widow giving all that she had, would it make sense that Jesus was praising herself for making herself destitute completely, just to give ostensibly to God, but in reality to a building and a religious hierarchy that lived off of such donations? Surely not?

Larger Context: Jesus’ advice to the young Rich Man

We find the accounts of Jesus’ advice to a young rich man in Mark 10:17-22, Matthew 19:16-24 and Luke 18:18-23.

Matthew 19:16-24 reads as follows: “Now, look! a certain one came up to him and said: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” 17 He said to him: “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is that is good. If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.” 18 He said to him: “Which ones?” Jesus said: “Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must not bear false witness, 19 Honor [your] father and [your] mother, and, You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him: “I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” 22 When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions. 23 But Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to YOU that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens. 24 Again I say to YOU, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.”

Did Jesus tell the rich young man, sell all your belongings and go and put it in the Temple treasury? No, a common theme through the Bible and Jesus teachings, was to go and help the poor.

Larger Context: The example of the Apostles and first century Christians

Do the accounts of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament \ Christian Greek scriptures give any evidence that Jesus appointed a new priestly class and organization that would the other Christians should support through tithing or financial donations?

No, there is no evidence of any setup of any organization or class of Christians who would not work secularly and instead be supported by donations of other Christians, either being appointed by Jesus, or setup by the apostles.

However, the Book of Acts of the Apostles shows how other poor Christians were helped individually and collectively by their fellow Christians through the Apostles and others whom the early groups appointed to do so. Acts 4:32-37 recounts how this occurred:

“Moreover, the multitude of those who had believed had one heart and soul, and not even one would say that any of the things he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. 33 Also, with great power the apostles continued giving forth the witness concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and undeserved kindness in large measure was upon them all. 34 In fact, there was not one in need among them; for all those who were possessors of fields or houses would sell them and bring the values of the things sold 35 and they would deposit them at the feet of the apostles. In turn distribution would be made to each one, just as he would have the need. 36 So Joseph, who was surnamed Barʹna·bas by the apostles, which means, when translated, Son of Comfort, a Levite, a native of Cyʹprus, 37 possessing a piece of land, sold it and brought the money and deposited it at the feet of the apostles.”

This makes it clear that the early Christians shared so that no-one among them would have nothing, but all would have sufficient. All donations by Christians who were better off financially went directly to poorer individuals who clearly had a need, not a want. The monies by inference did not go to those who did not have a need or did not want to work.

Apostle Paul to Timothy

The Apostle Paul was later to write to Timothy that those who did not provide for their own family were worse than those without faith. In 1 Timothy 5:3-11, 5:16, he wrote that they should “Honor widows that are actually widows. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight. 5 Now the woman who is actually a widow and left destitute has put her hope in God and persists in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But the one that goes in for sensual gratification is dead though she is living. 7 So keep on giving these commands, that they may be irreprehensible. 8 Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith. 9 Let a widow be put on the list who has become not less than sixty years old, a wife of one husband, 10 having a witness borne to her for fine works, if she reared children, if she entertained strangers, if she washed the feet of holy ones, if she relieved those in tribulation, if she diligently followed every good work. 11 On the other hand, turn down younger widows, … 16 If any believing woman has widows, let her relieve them, and let the congregation not be under the burden. Then it can relieve those who are actually widows.”

It is interesting to note that the Greek work “pronoeo” here translated as “provide for” ( indicates that of “thinking before, planning, showing necessary forethought to act properly” showing effort and work, rather than just giving.


Dorcas or Tabitha was noted for their gifts of mercy to fellow Christians. Nothing is said about any donations to an organized religion or a Temple. Acts 9:36 tells us “But in Jopʹpa there was a certain disciple named Tabʹi·tha, which, when translated, means Dorʹcas. She abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy that she was rendering.”.

Roman Centurion Cornelius

Similarly something about the Roman Centurion Cornelius, who became the first Gentile Christian is often overlooked. Note Acts 10:2 which states “Now in Caes·a·reʹa there was a certain man named Cornelius, an army officer of the Italian band, as it was called, 2 a devout man and one fearing God together with all his household, and he made many gifts of mercy to the people and made supplication to God continually.”.

This same quality about Cornelius is highlighted in Acts 10:4 “The man [Cornelius] gazed at him [the angel] and, becoming frightened, said: “What is it, Lord?” He said to him: “Your prayers and gifts of mercy have ascended as a remembrance before God”.”

This result in the Apostle Peter saying the following “At this Peter opened his mouth and said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, 35 but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”. (Acts 10:34-35).

Donate, Donations, Contribute, Contributions?

If you search the entire New Testament \ Christian Greek Scriptures, you will not find any use of these words (certainly in the NWT Reference Edition Bible).


Even when contribution is mentioned once, (where the Greek word “koinonia” means “what is shared in common on the basis of fellowship”), Romans 15:25-26 says “25 But now I am about to journey to Jerusalem to minister to the holy ones. 26 For those in Mac·e·doʹni·a and A·chaʹia have been pleased to share up their things by a contribution to the poor of the holy ones in Jerusalem.”. Here the passage in Romans clearly shows it was a contribution from a group of Christians directly to another group of Christians who they had heard were in need using the Apostle Paul to convey that contribution as he was travelling to Jerusalem. There is no mention that any requests for contributions or donations were made to help these ones.

Wider Context: Helping the Poor

What provisions were there made for the poor to deal with their situation?

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 commanded the nation of Israel the following: “In case someone of your brothers [fellow Israelites] becomes poor among you in one of your cities, in your land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not harden your heart or be closefisted toward your poor brother. For you should generously open your hand to him …”. So those who were rich had a duty to help their fellow Israelites who might be poor, and widows were typically poor. Those rich scribes should be helping, otherwise the poor might have “to call out to Jehovah against you [those rich Israelites] and it has become a sin on your [those rich Israelites] part.” (Deuteronomy 15:9).

In fact, the Mosaic Law went further than this. In Deuteronomy 26:12 it was commanded, “When you finish with tithing the entire tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you must also give it to the Levite, the alien resident, the fatherless boy and the widow, and they must eat it within your gates and satisfy themselves.”. Similarly, in Deuteronomy 14:28-29.

This is a very interesting point. We are given the impression by most religions that all the tithes went to the priests, but this is not the case. Every third year, the tithe had to be given to the Levites, alien residents, fatherless boys, and widows, not just to the priests.

A further point to note is that the one giving the tithe also got to participate in enjoying it. It was not just given to others. Deuteronomy 12:17-19 states that “You will not be allowed to eat inside your gates the tenth part of your grain or of your new wine or of your oil or the firstborn ones of your herd and of your flock or any of your vow offerings that you will vow or your voluntary offerings or the contribution of your hand. 18 But before Jehovah your God you will eat it, in the place that Jehovah your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter and your man slave and your slave girl and the Levite who is inside your gates; and you must rejoice before Jehovah your God in every undertaking of yours. 19 Watch out for yourself that you may not abandon the Levite all your days on your soil.”

In addition to the generosity of fellow Israelites, the poor could also sell their land and or house for money until the next sabbath year or Jubilee or even as a last resort sell their services as laborers to the debt owner.

If the rich scribes and Pharisees were following the spirit and the letter of this part of the Mosaic Law they could not be accused of devouring the widow’s home. Therefore, if those rich scribes in their robes had been generous to the poor widows, these widows would not need to sell their land and homes, especially as it would be unlikely that a widow could labor for someone. Yet according to Jesus, these scribes were devouring the houses of widows. Taking their homes, probably the last of their possessions instead of being generous to such ones.

Wider Context: What is God’s view on Contributions and in particular, Buildings?

To answer this question we need to briefly examine the following periods in Bible History. At the time of the Exodus, at the time of David and Solomon, at the return from exile in Babylon, the building of Herod’s Temple, and at the time of Jesus.

The time of the Exodus

The account in Exodus 25:1-8 covers the instructions given by God to Moses regarding the Tabernacle for housing the ark of the covenant. The key points to note from this passage are the following:

  • The request to Moses was for the construction of a sanctuary for God, for a tabernacle or dwelling place amongst the nation of Israel.
  • The request was a one-off, special request.
  • The construction was to be made known and contributions were to be accepted only from those whose heart incited them (Exodus 25:2). There was no obligation, compulsion or expectation put upon any of the Israelites.
  • Exodus 40:33-35 gives the account of the miraculous indication that the tabernacle constructed had God’s approval.

The time of David and Solomon

Firstly the arrival of the ark of the true God at Jerusalem recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:1-7.

1 Chronicles 16:7 when discussing the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant at Jerusalem into a tent made by David for it, says “It was then on that day that David made a contribution for the first time to thank Jehovah by means of Aʹsaph and his brothers”.

  • Point to note: The first time David contributed to Jehovah God even though he had been King over Judah for some 7 years and was now king over all Israel.

2 Samuel 7:4-16 contains the record of God’s communication regarding the building of a Temple. In part it reads “Go, and you must say to my servant David, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “Should you yourself build me a house for me to dwell in? 6 For I have not dwelt in a house from the day of my bringing the sons of Israel up out of Egypt to this day, but I was continually walking about in a tent and in a tabernacle. 7 During all the time that I have walked about among all the sons of Israel, was there a word that I spoke with one of the tribes of Israel that I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why did YOU people not build me a house of cedars?’”. (2 Samuel 7:4-7)

  • Point to Note: It was David’s suggestion to build a Temple, to replace the tent or tabernacle. It was not a request from God.
  • 2 Samuel 7:8-16 is about Jehovah God making the house of David firmly established and that David’s son (Solomon) would be the one allowed to build the Temple.
  • 1 Kings 5:5 shows that Solomon decided to build the Temple. He was not asked to do so. “And here I am thinking of building a house to the name of Jehovah my God, just as Jehovah promised to David my father, saying, ‘Your son whom I shall put upon your throne in place of you, he is the one that will build the house to my name.””

Return from Babylonian Exile

Haggai 1:1-15 shows a slightly different attitude by God. The record states: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘As regards this people, they have said: “The time has not come, the time of the house of Jehovah, for [it] to be built.”’” 3 And the word of Jehovah continued to come by means of Hagʹgai the prophet, saying: 4 “Is it the time for YOU yourselves to dwell in YOUR paneled houses, while this house is waste? 5 And now this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Set YOUR heart upon YOUR ways. 6 YOU have sown much seed, but there is a bringing of little in. There is an eating, but it is not to satisfaction. There is a drinking, but not to the point of getting intoxicated. There is a putting on of clothes, but it is not with anyone’s getting warm; and he that is hiring himself out is hiring himself out for a bag having holes.’” 7 “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Set YOUR heart upon YOUR ways.’ 8 “‘Go up to the mountain, and YOU must bring in lumber. And build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and I may be glorified,’ Jehovah has said.”.

  • A comparison was made between the living standards of the Jews who had returned from exile and the Temple.
  • A specific request was made for the rebuilding of the Temple by God through his prophet Haggai.
  • There is no records of any requests for contributions.
  • The main item was timber which was available freely at that time, it just needed manpower to obtain it.

Herod’s Temple

  • Point to Note: There was no request from God for Herod to rebuild the Temple.

Jesus’s View

John 4:16-26 records the account of Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. It states “He said to her: “Go, call your husband and come to this place.” 17 In answer the woman said: “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her: “You said well, ‘A husband I do not have.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the [man] you now have is not your husband. This you have said truthfully.” 19 The woman said to him: “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet. 20 Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but YOU people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her: “Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will YOU people worship the Father. 22 YOU worship what YOU do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. 23 Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him: “I know that Mes·siʹah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one arrives, he will declare all things to us openly.” 26 Jesus said to her: “I who am speaking to you am he.”.

  • Dispute between Samaritans and Jews about where to worship, in Jerusalem or in Samaria (on Mount Gerazim).
  • Jesus said the time had come for people to worship God in spirit and truth rather than in a particular place. A physical temple was no longer required.

Completing the Lesson – An example

Now, to complete the lesson Jesus just needed an example to illustrate his point. Now from his vantage point, he could see the treasury chests of the temple. Sure enough, as Mark 12:41 states “… many rich people were dropping in many coins.” In doing this they were making a show of their status as rich, and allegedly generous to God. But what happened then?

Exactly what should not have happened. “A poor widow came and dropped in two small coins, which have very little value.” Mark 12:42. Yes, there was a poor widow, who only had two small coins left. Furthermore, Jesus knew [obviously miraculously] more about this poor widow. “… she, out of her want, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12:44). Yes, this widow was in a very bad position, one that the rich scribes should not have let her fall into. They allowed her to further impoverish herself, while they took the glory for their large contributions. Yet, according to the Mosaic Law, the rich scribes should have ensured that the widow did not get in such a poor state.

It was this situation that Jesus pointed out to the disciples. Here was exactly what he had been warning the crowd about earlier. A widow with nothing, destitute, while the scribes had everything and did nothing to help her. All they did was to pour large amounts of coins into the treasury so as to look good to onlookers instead of helping their poor fellow Israelites.

Yes, the scribes devoured {Greek word means “to leave nothing”) the houses of widows. Jehovah wanted those who were rich to look after their fellow Israelites, before contributing to the Temple and further enriching the scribes.

The rich scribes had plenty of surplus money obtained from people like this widow, which they used to look good in other people’s eyes, instead of helping the poor. By contrast, Jesus said that the widow put in her whole living. By doing so, how would she survive? She would be reduced to begging to survive. The Greek word “ptochos” translated as “poor” means to “crouch or cower like a beggar, deeply destitute, a pauper as opposed to a peasant, the extreme opposite of the rich”. The widow was in the worst state imaginable financially speaking.

The whole thrust of the Mosaic Law was that the rich should help the poor. The Mosaic Law did not encourage the rich to make the poor become destitute in some vain attempt to please God by giving large donations to the Temple, nor some desperate action on the part of widows to try to get God’s blessing in a financial sense to escape their predicament. God had made a provision for these poor ones that was not being adhered to.

This passage of scripture had nothing to do with making a point that even if we are very poor, we should still contribute to a religion or religious building or religious institution, ostensibly to God when in reality, the money goes to men, like the scribes in Jesus’ day.

What Did Jesus Repeat and thereby Emphasize?What Did Jesus Not do?
Many Rich people were dropping in many coins, surplusDid not praise her actions
A poor, needy widow, little value,Did not tell his audience to imitate her action
out of her want or poverty, her whole living,Tell us why the widow gave the coins, was it out of despair? or out of guilt? or out of desire to contribute?

The Greatest Commandments

To confirm this understanding, if we look earlier in Mark 12:28-34 we see a scribe asked Jesus “Which commandment is first of all?”. What was Jesus’ reply? “Jesus answered: ”The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’” But Jesus did not leave it there. Notice what he continued on to say. “The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”.

The scribe knew this to be true and said that loving God and “this loving one’s neighbor as oneself is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices [and contributions to the Temple treasury!]”. Yes, the scribe knew what was right. Showing love to God and neighbor was more important than contributions (which were a sacrifice if out of want, but not a sacrifice if out of surplus). Yet this was what most scribes were failing to practice, a love of neighbor.

On another occasion, a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him what he must do to gain everlasting life. Jesus replied, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower”. (Matthew 19:21).

Why did Jesus give such replies and not say “Give money to the Temple”? Because caring for the poor showed love for God and their neighbors, in a way that contributions to a place of worship could never do.

Regardless of faith or belief, kindness to a neighbor was good. Supporting what one might think is God’s arrangement, but is not, was pointless. God, via his prophets such as Daniel and through his son Jesus, had foretold the destruction of the wicked and corrupt Jewish system of things, including the Temple. But acts of kindness would also be remembered by God.

Do Not Be Misled by Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees

Likewise, today. Do we have irrefutable proof or even any suggestion that God or Jesus wants us to contribute to any religion or to an Organization that claims to be God’s representative or Organization on earth, just like the 1st Century Jewish Temple arrangement claimed to be God’s arrangement? Or rather does he want us to help our neighbor? Jesus repeatedly gave the same answer, to help our neighbor.

If we contribute to a Christian Religious Organization, do we know what the money is used for? If there are no publicly available accounts, how can we tell? There is little or no transparency. The religious Organization may tell you some of the things they spend the donations on, but they all hide expenses they do not want you to know about. For example, how much compensation they have had to pay out because of persistent mishandling of child sexual abuse cases? This is something which affects all religious bodies including Jehovah’s Witnesses without exception. Many religions put subtle psychological pressure on all the widows and widowers and poor followers to give contributions, to support the buildings, the hierarchy of priests, elders, or preacher\pastor. In doing so they are “devouring the houses of the widows”.

However, if you stop for one moment and think about it, when was the last time you saw a poor priest or poor vicar, or poor pastor, etc.? Your chances of seeing a poor religious leader are very slim to none. Yes, the modern-day equivalent of the scribes of Jesus’ day, such as the Governing Body Of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Pope and the Cardinals of the Catholic Church, or the Archbishops of the Protestant churches, can often be seen wearing Rolex watches, gold rings (not just a wedding ring if married), expensive suits, vestments embroidered with gold, and driving expensive cars, flying first class. Furthermore, they have no worries about paying the rent or where their next meal will come from. (For example, watch any monthly broadcast on JW Broadcasting to see evidence of this! Or any TV broadcast of other religious services.) And what is more, the bulk of it is paid for by mostly widows, widowers, and the poor!

Do the members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Pope and the Cardinals of the Catholic Church, or the Archbishops of the Protestant churches work secularly for a living? Of course not. They live on the donations to their respective organizations, all of which claim to be God’s organization and representatives on earth.

Christians should not be a burden to fellow Christians

Yet what was the example of the Apostle Paul back in the first century? 1 Thessalonians 2:5-9 shows a Christian attitude completely at odds with that of modern-day religious leaders. It reads “In fact, you know that we never used flattering speech or put on any false front with greedy motives; God is witness! 6 Nor have we been seeking glory from men, either from you or from others, though we could be an expensive burden as apostles of Christ. 7 On the contrary, we became gentle in your midst, as when a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 So having tender affection for you, we were determined to impart to you, not only the good news of God but also our very selves, because you became so beloved to us.

9 Surely you remember, brothers, our labor and toil. We were working night and day, so that we would not put an expensive burden on any one of you, when we preached the good news of God to you.”.

This is confirmed by the account in Acts 18:1-4 where it reads: “After these things he [Paul] departed from Athens and came to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aqʹui·la, a native of Ponʹtus who had recently come from Italy, and Pris·cilʹla his wife, because of the fact that Claudius had ordered all the Jews to depart from Rome. So he went to them 3 and on account of being of the same trade he stayed at their home, and they worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 However, he would give a talk in the synagogue every sabbath and would persuade Jews and Greeks.”.

Note! The apostle Paul worked during the week to support himself and then went preaching on the sabbath in the synagogue. Yes, the Apostle Paul did not live off of his fellow Christians, most of whom were poor. He provided for himself.

Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees, Who are they?

What a contrast can be seen between the actions and teachings of the Apostle Paul and the actions and teachings of the Governing Body, Bethel members, and Circuit Overseers!

Focusing on the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, how many rich Witnesses do you know of? How often do the poor, whether Witnesses or not, got monetary help, especially without strings attached, from the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Why not try asking local elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses if they will authorize the congregation to make a charitable donation to a poor brother or sister in need or run a soup kitchen for needy ones among the general public for even one day? Then see what their reaction will be.

The answer can almost be guaranteed to be, “if they need help you can do that personally, but we cannot/will not use the congregation funds, it’s dedicated funds” or comments carrying the same sentiment. This answer is almost word for word the answer the author received when he asked the same question some years ago regarding a brother whom the author had discerned had no food or money for his next meals, through no fault of his own.

From this would it not be reasonable to conclude that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in particular the Governing Body are the modern day Scribes and Pharisees?

“More Happiness in Giving”, To Whom?

How did the Apostle Paul understand Jesus’ words “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”?

In Acts 20:33-35 the Apostle Paul states:

33I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel.”.

How did he act in harmony with this view?

34 YOU yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me.”

Yes, the Apostle Paul supported himself and those who were traveling with him. He did not expect nor ask for monetary donations so that he did not need to work.

What did he want the Christians to do? To Assist the weak and be happy in doing it.

35 I have exhibited to YOU in all things that by thus laboring YOU must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’””.

The Apostle Paul followed the example set by Jesus. Paul labored himself, and assisted the weak and poor and was not a burden to others. He gave rather than expecting to receive.

In Summary

  • Tithing, though a requirement for the Israelites, allowed both the giver to benefit and allowed the poor to regularly benefit. (Deuteronomy 26:12, Deuteronomy 12:17-19)
  • The Mosaic Law made provisions to care for the poor and expected the rich to care for such ones. (Deuteronomy 15:7-9)
  • Between the Tabernacle, Temple of Solomon, Post Exile Temple, and Temple of Herod, only two, the Tabernacle and the Post Exile Temple have specific requests by God. Only the Tabernacle having miraculous confirmation of this request.
  • When Jesus preached he did not give instructions to build buildings to worship, but rather to worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
  • Corban was detestable in Jesus’ eyes. He spoke out against the rich who ignored the Mosaic laws and the principles behind them by adding their own traditions that nullified those principles and laws. (Matthew 15:3-9, Mark 7:9-13)
  • Jesus’ advice to the rich young ruler was to sell his possessions and give to the poor, not the Temple treasury. (Mark 10:17-22, Matthew 19:16-24 and Luke 18:18-23)
  • The better-off early Christians willingly gave to those fellow Christians poorer than themselves. (Acts 4:32-37)
  • Dorcas was highly commended for her gifts of mercy to the poor. This led to the resurrection of Dorcas. (Acts 9:36)
  • The Roman Centurion Cornelius was highly commended for his gifts of mercy to the poor.). This led to the acceptance of Cornelius as the first Gentile Christian, under instruction from Jesus from heaven. (Acts 10:1-35)
  • In contrast to the Jewish practice of Corban, the Apostle Paul said that those who failed to care for their immediate family (for whatever reason) were worse than those without faith. (1 Timothy 5:3-11, 5:16)
  • The Apostle Paul worked secularly to support himself and was not a burden on his fellow Christians. (1 Thessalonians 2:5-9, Acts 18:1-4)
  • There are no records of any requests for contributions or donations in the Christian Greek scriptures. When a contribution or donation was made it was for a specific purpose and went directly to that person, or group of people who were in dire need because of famine, etc. It did not go to a religious organization.
  • The scriptures do not show that an Organization was either formed or required for these tasks.
  • The first Century Christians did not build special meeting places, but met in private homes.

Against this scriptural background we found the following about the passage regarding the widow’s donation of two small coins:

  • Jesus warned about the showy display of the rich, getting richer when in secret they were leaving widows totally destitute.
  • Jesus also warned about putting one’s trust in grandiose buildings (like the Herodian Temple) and the religious institution of the day, the scribes and Pharisees, that the Temple treasury supported, as they would all soon be destroyed.
  • Jesus did not praise the widow’s action.
  • Jesus did not say to emulate the widow’s action.
  • Jesus did not say that God was please with her action.
  • Jesus merely stated the facts, that as a result of that contribution the widow was now totally destitute, giving all that she had and that in proportion to her monetary status, she had given far more than the rich.
  • None of the rest of the scriptures appeal or refer to this account in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 as an example of what Christians should be doing.

Conclusion – Beware of the Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees

In light of all the above, to conclude that Jesus was suggesting the widow’s example was one to emulate, is totally at odds with what Jesus said, the context in which he said it, and his other teachings. What is more, it is also against the teachings and the examples of the apostles. Finally, the way this passage is applied by the modern day Scribes and Pharisees is not even supported by the Mosaic Law.

We can only conclude that religious teachers and leaders, both past and present, have twisted and taken out of context and misinterpreted the passage of the widow’s donation for their own greedy ends.

Therefore, surely we must watch out for this Leaven of the Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees. Did not Jesus say, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees …” (Matthew 16:6)?

If Jesus were here on earth today, would he not instead say, “Beware the leaven of the Governing Body” and like-minded religious leaders?

Did he not warn that those seeking prominence, such as the Governing Body, “are the ones devouring the houses of the widows and for a pretext making long prayers;” and, that “these will receive a heavier judgment”. Mark 12:40.

Modern Day Scribes and Pharisees Who are they
A widows mite type coin from the 1st Century BC to the 1st Century AD.

A Widow’s mite coin (slightly larger than life size).

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