Ash Wednesday – February 17, 2021
Are you glorifying God or yourself?
Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21
I suppose if you’ve ever played a video game, or even better, a virtual reality video game, you know what it feels like to be the hero. You may fight demons, dragons, warlords, or giant beasts. In other video or VR games, you may be on a quest to find gold or jewels, and you are deterred at every corner by an adversary.
One thing I’ve found when I play these games. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. There are times I am the hero, and there is a roaring crowd giving me adoration. Other times I succumb to the dragon, beast, or other adversaries, and I lose. No cheers, no roaring crowd, just booing or a big red x on the screen that says, “You lose, game over.”
We play these games wanting to be the winner, to bring attention to ourselves, so the characters in the game or the person you’re playing with say, “Wow! Great Job!”
Interestingly enough, even though we search to be a winner and be admired in games as well as in life, Jesus tells us something else. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter six, Jesus gives us a list of don’ts or do nots.
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled, so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them, and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there, the desires of your heart will also be.
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
In the verses above, there are four, ‘do not’ admonitions from Jesus (And you don’t need to look further than 6:25 for more, when Jesus says, “Do not worry.”) are stated:
- Don’t do your good deeds publicly to be admired by others.
The idea behind doing a good deed (serving others) is to show your love for others and do for them as Jesus did and does for us. It should never be self-serving with the hope of admiration; it should always be self-sacrificing.
- Don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.
There is a time for public prayer; church, group bible studies, etc. But overall, prayer is a one on one time between our Lord and us. Praying and conversing with God is for us individually to Praise Him. It’s also a time to ask forgiveness, ask for our needs and wants, and a time for us to be flexible and listen and bend to His will as we are given direction and discipline.
- When you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled, so people will admire them for their fasting.
Not everyone fasts, and that’s okay. Yet, many people fast from food or activity that they genuinely enjoy during the Lenten season. Fasting is also a way of saying to God, “I sometimes let _______ become more important in my life than You, Lord. This (day, week, month) I fast from this item to show you are more important than any earthly thing.”
- Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them, and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
First of all, let me say the old adage is correct, “You can’t take it with you.” Is it okay to have money? Is it alright to be a CEO of a corporation and make seven or eight figures a year? The answer is, Yes! But be smart with what you possess here on earth. Are you hoarding or using it to help and serve others?
Here’s the point anything we possess, money, land, cars, etc., are all temporary. We can lose all of these things in an instant. (And everything we have, no matter what it is, comes from God)
What’s more important to you? The things of this temporal life or the treasures that await us in heaven. So be careful, don’t make money and your possessions your gods. You can’t serve the God of the universe and the gods of the world.
Being highly esteemed, respected, and admired in this world all feel great for a while. But God’s love and full forgiveness in Jesus Christ and the guarantee of the riches of heaven are far better rewards than any we can obtain on earth during our lifetime.