Devotion: Ash Wednesday

Image result for ASh WednesdayRead Matthew 6:1-16,16-21

Consider doing this devotion with your spouse, family or friend.

Lent can easily become a time of when we suddenly wear our religion on our sleeves (or our foreheads). In Matthew, Jesus warns against such displays of piety. He points out that such acts are driven by our desire to be seen. When our focus is on appearing to be faithful, true faithfulness is hard to come by.

What is the danger in pious (religious or spiritual) behavior? Isn’t displaying our faith a part of being a witness?  How is Christ breaking through our religiosity to bring us to faith?

Instead of using prayer as a means to show off to others, Jesus encourages his disciples to go to their “room” when they pray (v. 6). The Greek word tameion (ta-may-on) refers to a secret or hidden room, such as a place where one might keep valuables.

How does Jesus’ advice on prayer in verses 5-6 relate to what he says in verses 19-21 about laying up treasures on earth? When Jesus speaks of the “treasure” we have in heaven, is he talking about things or a person?

In this passage, Jesus addresses the motives behind pious acts. Our sin drives us to seek recognition for our good deeds. We want others to notice what good people we are and what good things we do. The result is that our motives are always mixed. Our efforts to help our neighbor are also efforts to help ourselves.

Can you think of any evidence that we, in practice, believe that our good works assist in our salvation? Why do the motives behind a good deed matter?

Tonight we will gather for our Ash Wednesday worship service (7 pm). We will receive an ashen mark of the cross on our foreheads. We will not be able to see that cross. Perhaps this is a good illustration for our good works this Lenten season. May only the cross of Christ be seen as we love God and our neighbour.