S (Scripture) – Mark 12:38-40 “In His teaching He was saying: ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.'” NASB
“He continued teaching. ‘Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.'”
O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, as I was mediating on this passage, I distinctly saw a picture of my little seedlings that I am growing as they were just breaking through the surface of the soil. My son asked me, “Mommy, how do they do that?” I told him that everything the seed needed to grow into a big plant was already inside of it, and that the process started by just barely breaking through the shell of the seed, then taking root, and then showing through the soil. Even though it took a few days for us to actually see the first seedling above the soil, there had been a lot going on under the surface. In much the same way, I don’t believe that highly pious, religious people are initially “preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions,” all the while “exploiting the weak and helpless.” No doubt there are some very disturbed individuals out there who claim the Name of Christ that are merely predators seeking someone to take advantage of…but mostly, the hollow hearts of pious religious people started out wanting to please You. Along the way, there were a series of compromises that resulted in the person elevating themselves and seeking the praise and approval of other people rather than You. Much goes on under the surface, or, inside the heart, that we cannot see. But, You see. Slowly, the person drifts away from knowing the one, true God, and then exploitation of others becomes easy. It didn’t happen overnight.
A (Application) – Proverbs 4:23–26 instructs believers to, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” The choices we make each day are moving us closer in intimacy to knowing our Lord and His will, or they are pushing Him away. According to GotQuestions.org, “James 1:14–16 tells us, ‘Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.’ Sin always begins in the mind. A sinner must first conceive and dwell on the sinful action before he actually carries it out. The first line of defense, therefore, must be to refuse to even contemplate a wrongful action. The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive, so that it conforms to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).”
P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us victory over sin and death. Help us to remember that the battlefield is in our mind, our thoughts, and our hearts. War is constantly being waged around us, and the only means of being victorious is by trusting in You alone. Equip us to guard our hearts and minds so that we can accomplish all that You have for us to do. If we have made choices along the way that draw us away from You, help us to confess our sin. You promise to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we confess them to You (1 John 1:9). Thank You for never giving up on us, and for continuing to draw us closer to You.