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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, February 12, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 6:16–21

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NRSV)

As we stand at the cusp of Lent, ready to begin a season of prayerful introspection, this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount cuts and convicts us only as deep as we allow it to. Most of us—whether we want to admit it or not—have likely had instances when we have secretly wanted others to acknowledge how above and beyond we’ve gone in our charitable efforts or in what we’ve given up during Lent or in how faithfully we’ve lived our lives. Our sense of pride, which sometimes manifests itself outwardly in false humility, can be the dark side of compassion and giving—a desire for outward praise rather than seeking inner transformation.

Jesus has harsh words in this passage for any who trumpet their fasting in the marketplaces or those who go out of their way so that everyone can see what a big sacrifice they are making. “They have received their reward,” Jesus says. Instead Jesus calls us to focus on our inner life during this season of Lent. If we choose to give something up, we should do so with quiet conviction. If we take something up, we should do humbly between us and God.

Friends, as we prepare to begin this season of Lent in a few days, let us not store up treasures in the form of praise and admiration from our friends and colleagues, but instead the true treasure of improving our relationship with the God who calls and inspires us.

Holy God, may you humble me in this season and draw my daily steps ever closer to yours, seeking not praise and adulation, but instead the path of true discipleship. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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