“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matt: 6:1 RSV
The season of Lent is one of my favorite times of the Christian calendar. Trust me, it’s not because I love to fast. I’m still learning the joy of that discipline. While I understand the need for fasting to better rely on God’s strength to overcome my human desires, it’s still a difficult thing for me to do. It’s sort of like I feel I need to set my love for gourmet cooking on a shelf for forty days and try not to think about it. Lent serves not only as a reminder that my human desires easily become disordered, but also as an opportunity to become more fully engaged with my spirituality. Kind of like a time to concentrate on the practice of my faith.
Apparently, in Jesus’ day there was an issue with some who “practiced” their “piety” in hypocritical ways. They loved being noticed publicly for their “spiritual” practices. Let’s face it, the temptation to want to be noticed by others is a part of the human condition. We need only take a look at the way we dress to see that. We love to be complimented on how nice we look: it feels good. However, our spirituality is too important to be left to such superficial standards. There is only one person our spirituality needs to impress – our Father, God.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that when we fast or pray or do any good works in such a way that we hope others notice and approve of us, we’ve voided all true spiritual gain from such works. True spirituality is born of our desire to please God and Him only. When we learn to fast, pray and serve others out of love for God and a desire to grow closer to Him, then we are living the Spirit-filled life of Christ.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Western Christians. I pray today is a great day for you, a day you hear the Lord saying, “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19) May your Lenten journey this year lead you deep into the heart of the Father; there you will find true peace, joy and contentment. Thank you for joining me on this Lenten journey to renew our hearts in Christ. Let’s let Psalm 51:12 be our daily prayer for this season…
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit” NRSV