"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21
I love Ash Wednesday's imposition of ashes, the anointment with last year's death. Yet the smudge is so visible, so in other people's faces. Our lectionary reading for this first week of Lent concerns me; in Matthew 6, after the blessed Beatitudes during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises me to be careful that I don't try to appear too self-righteously pious before others - as this is not of the Father, it is not rewarded by the Father. I'm supposed to let my light shine. I am supposed to witness by example. Yet, I am supposed to keep somethings secret? How often did Jesus perform a miracle, only to tell the healed person to keep it a secret? I never understood. Yet this warning on how to practice spiritual disciplines have become more clear as I have observed myself and others on social media: do not humble-brag!
People talk about how much money they give at church (or give an illusion that they give more than they do) to justify their grab for status and control. People shame others by bragging about helping them in their mess ("did you know that she..."). People brag that they gave a dollar to a mentally handicapped veteran living on the street. Are we next to start bragging about breathing, and walking, and sleeping too?
People judge themselves, judge each other, desire to be judged, based upon how well they can whip out a prayer and sling it in public. People remain silent, or wish that others would remain silent. During prayer time at church, the prayers become announcements or gossip masquerading as holiness. (But, I have a friend who really has a prayer closet - WOW!)
We all know people who post a vague comment implying suffering, pain, impending doom, sans any useful detail. They beg we ask, they demand our attention: "well, since you asked, I have a boil on my butt..." Or we see people who fast as though it were man-flu, "Oh, I'm sorry I'm so weak today, I've been fasting for the Lord since breakfast! Do you fast? It's good for you!" Unless you're on a hunger-strike for justice or starving because you can't afford food, we don't care that you're hungry!
"Don't store up treasures on earth." I've preached on that many times, always talking about money and physical things - what good is "stuff"? Yet, I should probably rethink that in context. Since Jesus is talking about spiritual disciplines and our self-appropriating a mantel of self-important holiness, maybe the treasures he mentions are praise, and honor, and recognition. Maybe, he is telling me that all this time, I have been looking in all the wrong places for affirmation?
Maybe, what I need to fast from is not Face Book, beer, pizza, or watching the news. Maybe, what I should be fasting from is myself?