Wednesday 01 March 2017

Bible Book:

“Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (v. 1)

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Wednesday 1 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 51


Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent -traditionally a time of fasting and self-denial. Today, inparticular, is a day of penitence, and many church traditions markit with 'ashing'. Worshippers receive a cross on their foreheads,made of ash, as a sign of mortality and repentance. You may havetaken part in an ashing service yourself today.

Fasting, of course, is a spiritual discipline which is found inmany religious traditions, along with charitable giving and prayer,all of which Jesus considers in this passage. His teaching on eachmakes the same basic point, which is summed up neatly at the end.We can engage in good works and religious observance for twopurposes: to grow in standing with humanity, or with God. As Jesusputs it (verses 19-21), we can store up treasures on earth, byconsciously building up our reputation for holiness or piety, or wecan store them up in heaven, by consciously participating in God'smission.

The first of these options may seem attractive - who doesn'tlike to be respected or well-regarded? But Jesus points out that itis a risky option. Just as moths, rust and thieves can deprive usof worldly wealth, our frailty as humans can cost us acarefully-built reputation. It takes only one mistake or even onefalse rumour to lose us the respect of others. But God sees us asbigger than our mistakes, and knows the honesty and integrity (orotherwise) of our actions.

In verse 3, Jesus encourages his disciples, "Do not let yourleft hand know what your right hand is doing". The idea of one handnot knowing what the other is doing is often used as a negativething, to denote a breakdown in communication. But Jesus clearlyintends something more positive by it. He is using the image as acharacteristic piece of hyperbole - a ridiculous, even humorous,overstatement, of a kind often used in rabbinic teaching. Doing ourgood works in secret at least means we can be sure we're not doingit for human glory!

To Ponder

  • Do you think we really need to be secretive about our religiousactivity and good works? How does that sit with the idea ofwitnessing to God's love, through our Christian life?
  • Are you giving anything up for Lent? Or taking up a spiritualdiscipline? What will be the benefits for your life or faith?
Previous Page Tuesday 28 February 2017
Next Page Thursday 02 March 2017