Begin with Me
Matthew 6: [1-6, 16-21], NIVBe careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Gospel reading begins with the words, “Be careful.”
The admonition, and guidance shared should order our steps throughout this season of Lent. These are words that have been offered to us and perhaps often shared by us. We may be quick to point the finger or provide spiritual counsel for another, but Jesus’ words call us to remember that the practice of giving, praying and fasting in this season should not be done for the purpose of receiving a reward from those observing us. These disciplines are to be done in private and “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The tension between what we practice and what we preach is ever present. Looking at others is not the focus of this season. It is a season to look at ourselves. I will always remember a story I once heard shared in a preaching moment:
A wealthy Wall Street broker had fallen in love with a young lady and began dating her. He didn’t want to relate to somebody who would damage him or come after him for his money. So, he had one of his colleagues hire a private detective to find out about her. He also didn’t want the detective to know whom he was investigating so she would not think he didn’t trust her.
After a few weeks, the report came back and said, “I have investigated the young lady and she has a squeaky-clean life. She is perfect in every way. However, there is one mark on this report. She is often seen around town in the company of a young broker whose dubious business practices and principles are well known.”
Our focus should be on the life we are living and the witness we are giving.
In those times of our feeling overwhelmed, speak to us, Lord. Help us to remember that we do not travel distance all at one time, but step by step, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute, and that we walk by faith, not by sight. As we face what is ahead, give to us a sense of priority and proper ordering so that we will keep the responsibilities of life and our own strength and abilities in proper focus. Amen. (William D. Watley, “I grow Weary”)