March 6 (Ash Wednesday)

Read: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before others (to be seen by them). If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (NIV)

Who doesn’t love applause? Who doesn’t love being appreciated and thanked for doing something nice? How many people – friends – have we lost over the years because the relationships seemed one-sided? Our egos may not demand recognition, and yet they can be so easily bruised. I sit here writing this while realizing I have not sent a thank-you note to some people who put me up on a recent outing. I said “thank you” before I left, of course, but Momma taught me one should always, always, always send a follow-up note – using real pen and paper (or card stock) and a stamp. It is the TIME we spend that says Thank you; not the paper, per se.

It is nearly impossible to do an act of kindness (or righteousness) that won’t be seen by others. It is also nearly impossible to do it so “ego-free” that only God will notice. I read what Jesus says and I answer, “My God, that’s impossible!” I suspect Jesus smiles and answers, “Yes, that’s the point.” If we think about it, the story of Lent is simply: I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let him.

I find I am happier when I realize I have fallen short of the ideal and have an opportunity to rectify matters. Others may not see it, but God does; that’s rewarding. I am happier when I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Others may not see it. God does; that’s rewarding. Jesus invites us to let go the ego long enough to realize that (doing) that frees our hands. With hands free, we can place them in God’s; that’s rewarding – more than enough.

God, help me learn to place my hand in yours. Thanks! Amen.

-Keith Axberg