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Ash Wednesday – March 2, 2022

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Ash Wednesday – March 2, 2022

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“…for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Vs.1

Hypocrites! Jesus addresses issues of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, a word originating in the Greek word for “actor,” receives an earthly reward rather than a heavenly reward. Hypocrites “act” pious but have no piety in their heart. Jesus reveals three sorts of hypocrisy: the giving of alms (vs. 2-4), the practice of prayer (vs. 5-6), and the practice of fasting (vs. 16-18). Hypocrites, when they practice these pieties, seek the attention and admiration of others. That attention and admiration are their reward, not a reward in heaven. After admonishing the crowd to reject this earthly treasure of human adulation and admiration, Jesus turns his attention to the accumulation of other earthly treasures such as fine garments, rugs, and other weavings (all subject to moths), such as filigreed and decorative panels (subject to rust), and such as coins and other items of gold and silver (subject to thieves).  Store not these vulnerable treasures says Jesus, but the invulnerable things of heaven.

An early biblical story exemplifies Jesus’ teaching here. In the story (Ge. 25:29-34) Esau so desires the food Jacob has prepared that he “sells” his birthright for a bowl of stew. Esau willingly trades away the blessing his father has in store for him, coveting instead the immediate reward of receiving satisfaction for his hunger.

So, too, you… you who trade away the birthright of your baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your adoption into the family of God. Your Father in Heaven, the Father of our brother, Jesus Christ, now claims you as a daughter… claims you as a son. Yet, the allure of earthly treasure, whether it be the acclaim of your neighbors or whether it be the accumulation of earthly wealth, looms before you and its immediacy—like the immediacy of Esau’s hunger—brings out the coveting always present among sinners… a coveting immediate, strong, and overwhelming.  It overwhelms you with desire and, before you know it, you’re spooning up that delicious stew, delighting in the immediate satisfaction of your hunger, and not giving a thought to the birthright you just traded away.

Table Talk:

Discuss “delayed gratification” vs. “immediate gratification”
Pray: Heavenly Father, grant me to trust your Word that my life is hidden away with Christ, in you so that I do not need to force it into visibility by my public piety. Amen 

Table Talk

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 English Standard Version

6 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…

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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