by Tony Nester

Opening Our Hidden Life to God - For Ash Wednesday
Tony R. Nester
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

We keep a lot about ourselves hidden. We have secret thoughts, secret desires, secret feelings. We have a lot to keep hidden. We hide things from one another because we're ashamed of what's inside of us.

Others may think we have a pure heart, but we know that impure thoughts have often entered our heart. Others may think we are unselfish, but we know how much selfishness remains within us. Others may think we are strong and courageous, but we know how weak and afraid we really are.

I don't believe we ever come to know anyone completely. You can experience every possible intimacy with someone, you can live with someone through the passage of years, you can share great joys and great sorrows with someone, and you will still not know everything about them. People will still surprise and sometimes shock you. There is an inner part of people we never see. There is a hidden part of ourselves we never reveal.

In today's Scripture from Matthew's Gospel Jesus directs our attention to our hidden life. He draws the contrast between our outward appearance to others and our inner spiritual reality.

Jesus tells us that we can easily become caught in the contradiction of audiences. On the outside we can appear to seeking God, or trying to do what's right; but on the inside we can be preoccupied with making a certain impression on other people. It's not God's approval we're seeking, but the applause of others.

(Matthew 6:1 NRSV) ''Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.''

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse in his book, THE MESSAGE: ''Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.'' Who is our audience?

Jesus On Three Spiritual Discip ...

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