Scripture: “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. [Matthew 6:16-20 NLT]
It was about a week before Christmas and I was excited. I was a normal eight year old boy who was excited about the possibilities of what would be under the tree. Would I get the G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip? Would I get the cool new matchbox set? I was excited and the excitement was about to burst out of my very being and explode over everyone. But, of course, I couldn’t let it show. My parents couldn’t know how badly I wanted these things because then they might not get them for me. At least this was what my eight year old boy brain was telling me. So I played it cool.
There was one thing that was killing me though. While my parents skillfully hid all of their presents, my sister had made the classic blunder. My sister had left my wrapped Christmas present in plain sight, right behind all of her clothes in the back of her closet. There was the tag just calling me … to Tim from Jen! Can you believe it? She was toying with me leaving this present where I could find it and even letting me know it was for me. Well, I couldn’t take it! Yes, I opened it when no one else was around so that I could see exactly what I was going to unwrap on Christmas Day. It was a risky move for sure. I actually played with the toy for a little while before putting it back in the box and carefully beginning the process of rewrapping it. As I started the process I quickly found out we were completely, and I mean completely, out of Scotch tape. The only tape in the whole house that I could use to rewrap my own present was masking tape. So what did I do? I used masking tape to carefully wrap the present and stick it back in the back of my sister’s closet. I secretly prayed that no one would notice. As you can guess … it didn’t work, she noticed.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. There are some things in life that you should not make obvious. In the passage of Scripture we are reading today Jesus tells his followers, when it comes to fasting, “don’t make it obvious.” When it comes to our inward faith, we should not make it obvious that we are working on our relationship with Jesus. There is a profound reason why Jesus says we should not do this. Jesus tells them that these are treasures that we store up in our heart. It is an inward journey that we travel with Jesus our Savior. We store up this treasure in our heart and thoughts knowing that it will overflow into our words and deeds. We don’t announce that we will be fasting, praying, serving, or growing in our faith. Instead, we do the inward work that comes out in our outward life. People will see and experience the evidence of our inward work through the actions of our life.
Today is Ash Wednesday when many will receive the Ashes imposed on their forehead. This is a symbol of repentance and belief in the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today our challenge is to find a way for the overflow of our heart and life with Jesus to demonstrate Christ’s love and sacrifice. It truly is not about walking around with ashes on our forehead, it is about turning from our selfish desires and putting others first. Today I will put my faith into practice by sharing the love of Christ with at least one person in a tangible way.
Prayer: Holy God, you have poured yourself out for me in the offering of your Son. Help me to pour myself out for you into the life of one person today who needs your love. Empower me through your Holy Spirt to not make it obvious, but to make it an overflow of my heart for you. Amen.