March 9

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

To see and to be seen is an American mantra. One look at magazine tabloids, TV, or social media and we’re bombarded with details of the lives of celebrities, politicians, and prominent citizens . . . what they’re doing (and who they’re doing it with). The covers and stories and posts scream: “Look at me! Aren’t I something?!” Most of the news is provocative or salacious. In addition to titillating us, these stories often make us Americans feel as if we’ll never catch up with the Joneses. Why can’t I live in a mansion? Fly in a private jet? Afford haute couture? As if we’re just not worthy enough.

In this passage, Jesus exhorts us to do the exact opposite of what the world dictates. He cautions us “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them,” but to do the stuff of our spiritual lives—to give, pray, and fast—in secret, so that we may be rewarded.

And who doesn’t love a reward?

Some of us can afford to give more than others in time and talents. Don’t let that discourage you. Give what you can—it’s between you and God anyway. “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Others are prayer warriors. When we compare ourselves to these living saints of the church, we fall short. Again, don’t let that dampen your efforts. Pray earnestly and transparently. God’s ears are open, and He wants to give you something in return.

Still, others flaunt their piety. Avoid this practice. Wear sackcloth and ashes if you must, and fast if you can—be it from food or drink or something that’s taking up too much of your time (Facebook, anyone?). But do it all behind closed doors.

Jesus says plainly, do this, and you will be compensated. Something tells me this reward in Heaven will be much greater than anything we’ve imagined on earth.

Dear Lord, help us to strive for heavenly rewards instead of earthly rewards. Amen.

-Ashley Sweeney