Today is Ash Wednesday. We of the church just love to do things that look to non-believers as really weird. One of those is Ash Wednesday. We set aside a day to fast; go to worship and get ashes wiped onto our foreheads. We then walk around the rest of the day with a smudge of dirt on our faces and wonder why our non-Christian friends think we are a little off and have not much interest in becoming Christian.
Then we proudly announce to whoever will listen what we are giving up for Lent. As if they really cared – or understood. They must think that the God we proclaim wants us to give up stuff; to suffer; to live with less? Really? And you want us to come to church and get to know that God and maybe even commit to that God so we too can be miserable? Really?
One of the scriptures in tonight’s Ash Wednesday Service is Matthew 6:1-6 (NIV) “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
As He usually does in His teaching, Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. He asks us to take a hard look at ourselves and ask ourselves about our motives. He seems less interested in us doing the right thing and more interested in us having the right intentions; the right attitude. Such is true for giving something up for Lent. Are we doing it because that is what we do? Are we doing it because it will force God to do what we want God to do or cause God to like us more? Are we doing it to impress others with our “spirituality”?
Might I suggest that instead of giving something up for Lent, you take something on? Perhaps you could take on a spiritual disciple that might draw you closer to God. Perhaps you could take on a new ministry to help others in your community. Perhaps you could make friends with someone who doesn’t know God and help them get acquainted?
If you insist on giving something up for Lent might I suggest you give up your crappy attitude? That’s what I’m giving up for Lent.
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