Jesus describes the privileges of Olympian leadership which these men get to enjoy. They get to walk around in long robes (v. 46, New Revised Standard Version, here and following) which makes them easily identifiable as leaders. So identified, they get to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets (v. 46).
So what’s the problem? They devour widows’ houses (v. 47). This is how conventional Olympian leaders act. In Olympian groups, in our Olympian society, people become leaders so that they can exploit others, so that they can take what others have.
Jesus reminds us today that this is not the way of Abba, his father in heaven and ours. To witness to Abba, these leaders should be working to ensure that widows are secure in their houses. More broadly speaking, they should be working to ensure that widows and society’s other marginal people are secure in their daily bread, are secure in getting all they need to get by.
The other problem? They…for the sake of appearance say long prayers (v. 47). These privileged men are the acknowledged leaders of the people of the one odd god of freedom but they are acting like leaders devoted to the six conventional gods of power. They are exploiting rather than strengthening the marginal members of their society. That exploitation witnesses to their devotion to the Olympian gods. So, while they publicly speak at length to Abba, in their hearts they aren't with him.
Through these two short verses, Jesus speaks anew to us today. He first speaks to us as leaders. When we are acting in our role as leader, whether at home, school, work, or church, Jesus frees us to remain mindful of the marginal members of our group. He frees us anew not to exploit them but to strengthen them for their good and his glory.
Through verse 47, Jesus also frees us to remain mindful of our words. He frees us to pay attention to the words we’re saying. He encourages each of us to say only those words that we can put our whole self behind. And when we’re speaking to him in public, he frees us to keep things short and clear.
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