Pie(ty) in the Face


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, 2 Kings 9:1-16, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

If a Christian prays in a forest and nobody hears, does she or he make a sound?

Maybe the answer to that question is, “God hears either way.”

Jesus taught his disciples not to be flashy about their faith, unlike the people who fasted and made sure to look miserable, or the alms-givers who literally trumpeted about their gifts, or the people who offered long and loud prayers on street corners. Instead he instructed them pray privately, fast discreetly, and give secretly. Ostentatious faith gathers the reward of attention, but not a heavenly reward.

It’s once we leave the seclusion of the spiritual forest that we learn whether we’ve spent our time there wisely learning to live and spread the gospel, or simply trying to persuade God to notice us. Flamboyant demonstrations of faith move the spotlight off of Christ and onto us. The evidence of a heart transformed by Christ is in how we love people, regardless of whether anyone ever acknowledges or even knows we’ve loved them. Is it possible to spread a gospel containing the idea the last are first and the first are last if we always seem to be going for gold in the piety Olympics?

When Elisha dispatched a young prophet to tell Jehu in private that God had anointed him to depose King Joram and become the new king of Israel, Jehu played it down to his fellow commanders. He dismissed it by saying, “You know how those prophet types are!” but his colleagues forced a confession out of him. Though he died about 800 years before Christ was born, Jehu understood the power of spiritual humility.

In her song These Old Bones, Dolly Parton sings about a woman with a prophet-like gift for seeing the truth. The woman says, “But unless somebody just plain out and asked me, well, I just figured there ain’t no point goin’ around actin’ like you know everything, just ’cause you might.” Humble authenticity, not an overwhelming display, is the key to winning people over. Though our witness is certainly part of our evangelistic toolkit, the moral of our story is not “Christ saved me,” but “Christ’s sacrifice was for everyone.”

Comfort: You don’t have anything to prove to anyone.

Challenge: So stop trying.

Prayer: Lord where there is despair, let me sow hope. Amen.

Discussion: Where and how do you like to pray?

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