March 6, 2019
“Jesus, our true treasure”
Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the disciple of Lent, make this season holy by our self-denial. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
We sometimes associate Lent with giving up certain things that may be sinful or that may easily lead to sin. This negative approach to the Lenten season frustrates a proper Gospel emphasis and promotes a self-righteous attitude. The Gospel for this Ash Wednesday is a section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus warns us not to practice certain piety only to secure the praise of others. He was speaking of the self-righteousness that can dominate our thinking about repentance.
He warns us not to practice our righteousness for the primary purpose of being seen and honored by others. He warns us not to concentrate on all the good we are doing by keeping a detailed account of how we have provided for the needs of others. We are not to make a display of our prayer life but to pray naturally and quietly. Fasting is not to be done for display but privately before God as a genuine expression of what we are experiencing in our spiritual life.
You are gathering treasures in heaven not on earth. Your heart is already in heaven with God and Christ, in whom alone true treasures are to be found. With Jesus as your heavenly treasure you are able to serve Him with a piety that flows naturally and joyously from faith in Him.
It is easy to become so earth-oriented that we forget that Jesus and heaven are our highest treasures. Lent again reminds us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. In this section of His Sermon on the Mount from which the Gospel is taken, Jesus says that by focusing on Him as a treasure, we maintain a balance in our Christian life between the earthly and the heavenly.
1. We can be more keenly aware of the distinction between the earthly and the heavenly.
A. Christ embodies all the spiritual values that are not of the earth.
1. In Him are found basic truths conveying assurance that God is our gracious Father, who has opened heaven’s doors to us because of what Christ accomplished at the cross and at the empty tomb.
2. In Him we find real peace in all the changes of this life and also joy in death.
B. What we have in Christ cannot be taken away from us by thieves or by rust or any earthly corruption.
1. All our earthly treasures – our health, too are temporal.
2. But what we have in Christ provides a basis for enjoying all these earthly treasures, because Christ has secured for us an anchor that hold in all the changes of life.
Transition: We receive Christ and His treasures of forgiveness and peace with God fully and freely at our baptism. Yet we continue to gather for ourselves heavenly treasures as we cling to Jesus as our highest treasure.
2. We can gather for ourselves treasures in heaven.
A. We gather for ourselves heavenly treasure when we do not need to publicize the good we are going for others.
1. We do good to others so naturally that we are hardly aware of doing it.
2. When our primary concern is not to get the praise of others but simply to meet their needs in response to what Jesus has done in meeting our needs, our Father will reward us. His ways of rewarding go far beyond what we can imagine here on earth or in heaven Men may praise us, but it far more significant to gather heavenly treasure by having God’s blessing.
B. We gather heavenly treasure when we don’t need to show others how beautiful our prayers are.
1. God does not look at the form, length, or pithiness of our prayers. Since prayer is an expression of our faith, what matters is that we are praying from the heart and without fear or doubting.
2. By so praying we gather treasures in heaven. When we pray in response to God’s promise that He will answer our prayers, His answers to prayer are a far higher reward that any human recognition for our praying.
C. We gather treasure in heaven when no pious activity on our part is carried out for ostentatious display.
1. Fasting, for example, has its place in the Christian life, but we don’t fast to call attention of others to how pious we are.
2. There is reward in such recognition, of course, but what is that human recognition in comparison to the heavenly recognition god gives us who are fasting as a genuine expression of our relationship to Christ?
How good it is to have as our highest treasure! From Him we gain insight into the distinction between the earthly and the heavenly. From Him we gain power to keep on gathering treasures in heaven.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use