“…for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
For my thesis I’ve done a bit of reading on Christian ethics and the formation of Christian character. Part of the biblical foundation for the formation of Christian character that I’m using is the Sermon on the Mount. As I read the Gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday (the lectionary has Matthew 6:5-6, 16-21 but I encourage you to read all of chapter 6 to get a better picture … in fact, read all of Matthew 5-7 and get the whole sermon, but I digress..) the verse above really struck me. We so often think that we do the things we do because of the person we are but do we ever stop to consider that it goes both ways, we are the person we are because of the things we do? Now, don’t think I’m heading down the heretical path of works righteousness; don’t make the leap from what I just said to earning our way into heaven. It is only because of God’s grace and love, by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are made heirs to God’s kingdom.
But in this sermon, Jesus is talking about the things we do here on earth as visible, physical manifestations of God’s love and the way what we do and who we are becoming is inseparable. In the language of ethics we’d use the terms practices and habits. The things we do as Christians – serving others, prayer, fasting, proclaiming the gospel, behaving compassionately and humbly and lovingly – at first we may have to do them consciously and as we practice them more and more they become habits. We acknowledge all along that it is only by God’s divine power that we are given what we need to live a godly life and are enabled to participate in his divine nature (when you finish reading the Sermon on the Mount, pour yourself another cup of coffee and read 2 Peter).
So, I consider this morning, where is my treasure – what is it that I value and allow to shape who I am becoming? Will my behavior today bring me closer to God? During Lent, what habits can I practice that will build up the body of Christ?
“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”