February 26, Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1–6; 16–21

It is Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of the traditional Lenten journey of following Jesus on the way to the cross. One tradition marking this journey with attention to self-reflection and the practice of denial is the question, “What will you give up for Lent?”

But Jesus’ words in his Sermon on the Mount raise some cautions about the risk or danger of placing emphasis on outward show or practice, as if that were the basis of some spiritual paycheck. Instead, Jesus teaches here about a gracious God who calls his followers to the way of steadfast love. He teaches them to pray, “Our Father, your kingdom come … and rescue us from the evil one.”

He invites them to see that the truly examined life rests in knowing what it means to have “treasure in heaven,” and to experience the truth that treasure and heart belong together—because you have been given a heart that perceives the rich mercy of a Father who knows what you need even before you ask.

Gracious God, teach us to examine our life and know that you stand ready to give the rich rewards of life in you even before we ask. Such are the riches of your promise to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: 2020 Advent Devotional of Luther Seminary.