Matthew 6:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting. Our gospel reading today reminds us of the importance of prayer and fasting. It’s a reading that reminds us of the humility that is needed in being a Christ-follower. It’s hard not to want to blow our own horn. Jesus reminds us in the first part of today’s reading that humility is needed when giving to others. We don’t need to broadcast it all over the place. Interestingly enough, in chapter 5 which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and in the same way that a lamp shines out its light, we are to let our good deeds shine out for all to see…Wait…that almost sounds like a contradiction of sorts. First, Jesus tells us let our good deeds shine…then he says, “Do your good deeds in private.” What’s going on here?
Part of our answer can be found in verse 21 of Matthew 6: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” What should be the purpose of doing good deeds? So that everybody knows what a great Christian I am? Of course not! We do our good deeds to glorify our heavenly Father…We do our good deeds so that everyone will praise God. There are far too many Christ-followers who do good so they can put the attention on themselves. That is what Jesus is warning us against. We don’t need to get the glory. If we get the glory here on Earth…that will be the only reward we will receive. Again, it’s all about our humility…it’s all about our heart.
What is your heart’s attitude toward God today? Is it about making yourself known – or is it about making God known.
Paul said: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.1 Corinthians 2:2
The heart cry of Paul, should be the heart cry of all of us as we enter this season of Lent – a time when we remember the price that Jesus paid for us.