Wednesday 05 March 2014

Bible Book:

“Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them.” (v. 1)

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Wednesday 5 March 2014


Ironically, this is the day (Ash Wednesday) when many Christianswill appear in their place of work or be seen in the streets with adirty smudge on their foreheads, indicating (for those whounderstand these things) that they have been 'ashed'. The Gospelreading that preceded their ashing was this extract from the Sermonon the Mount in which Jesus repeatedly counsels his disciples to dotheir good deeds "in secret" (v. 4).

The good deeds are of three types and (by omitting the passagein which Jesus teaches the Lord's Prayer) we read three carefullyparalleled paragraphs on giving alms (verses 2-4), praying (verses5-6), and fasting (verses 16-18). These duties are clearlyobligatory (each paragraph begins "when" or "whenever", not 'if').What is at issue is not the fact of performing religious duties,but the attitude in which they are performed. The disciples are notto follow the practice of the "hypocrites" (literally, those whoare playing a part) (verses 2, 5, 16) and do these things in publicso that others will see them. The disciples' good deeds should bedone in such a way that only God sees.

But there is a theme of reward running through this passage. Thepraise of others is an ephemeral reward for any good that thedisciple does. Jesus points his hearers to the lasting rewards thatGod gives to the faithful (verses 4, 6, 18). The final three versessum up that distinction with the metaphor of treasure and againremind us that what is vital in all this is our interior attitude.Is our focus on the lasting (but invisible) things of God or thefickle and unreliable credit that we can gain from others?

To Ponder

  • How far, do you think, is there a difference between otherpeople noticing that we are faithful in religious practice andparading our piety in public?
  • Jesus and Matthew assume that charitable giving, prayer, andfasting are obligations which disciples meet regularly. To whatextent is that assumption true of you?
  • In Lent, fasting is brought to the fore. Have you tried to fastas a regular discipline? What value did you find in it?
Previous Page Tuesday 04 March 2014
Next Page Thursday 06 March 2014