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Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2024

After reading through these twenty-one verses of Matthew, chapter six, one could wonder what Jesus has against piety and the demonstration of it?  He admonishes against the public practicing of righteousness (6:1).  He warns not to be as hypocrites in seeking the praise of others as you give alms to the needy (6:2).  Jesus cautions not to pray like the hypocrites (6:5).  Don’t display your fasting like hypocrites do, Jesus admonishes (6:16).  Jesus likens righteousness, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting to hypocrisy when done publicly.  All these, and the praise they receive, are “treasures on earth” (6:19).  Jesus speaks directly against them saying, “Do not lay up for yourselves” such things.  Jesus’ problem is not with piety but with the sinful affections of the heart.  These sinful affections reveal the pious as hypocrites because they seek not the good of the neighbor but rather praise for the doing of good.  The neighbor is treated as merely a means to an end (praise for the hypocrite) instead of being treated as an end in themselves.

Jesus positively provides something for us to do.  That is “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (6:20).  Many mistakenly attribute this “treasure” to the ledger of good deeds accumulated, recorded in the book of deeds (Rev. 20:12-15), and used to hold everyone accountable.  However, the Apostle Paul speaks of something better than deeds; Paul speaks of life… life as our treasure in heaven.  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).  Life, not deeds.  Deeds do not deliver you to this life hidden with Christ in God, but death does.  The Word of God accomplishes its alien work upon you by revealing to you the depths of sin, sin so deep the affections of your heart cannot be changed.  That old and sinful heart must die.  God’s Word of Law kills the sinner, putting that old heart to death.  Then the Word of God, the Gospel accomplishes its proper work by raising you up as a saint who has Jesus as its mortal life in the flesh and has its eternal life hidden away with Christ in God.  Death, not deeds, puts your name in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:12-15).  Dying to that pious hypocrisy Jesus warns against makes room for you with your new heart… your clean heart… Jesus’ heart… to walk among the good deeds God has prepared for you (Eph. 2:10). 

Table Talk:  Discuss the dangers of pious hypocrisy.
Pray:  Heavenly Father grant me to walk in God’s prepared deeds.  Amen

Matthew 6:(1-6) 16-21

(6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5 And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.)

6:16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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