My random Lent thought for today:
The Ash Wednesday gospel is Matthew 6:1-8 and 16-21. It mentions three spiritual disciplines: giving to the needy (or ‘almsgiving’ in the old translations), prayer, and fasting. I’ve read that in the Jewish world at the time of Jesus these were understood as basic spiritual disciplines, and no one who wanted to live a godly life would think of doing so without incorporating these things. So Jesus did not have to stress the necessity for prayer, almsgiving, or fasting; he could assume that his disciples were already doing these things (note that he does not say ‘IF you give to the needy’ or ‘IF you pray’, but ‘WHEN you do these things…’). Instead, he focusses on attitude and motivation: are we doing these things to impress others, or are we doing them because we love God and want to please him?
But I suspect this is not the case nowadays. I suspect that many, many Christians do not have a consistent discipline of prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor, and so we need to learn these basic spiritual practices all over again. And i also suspect that if we want to impress others in our culture, we would not choose these three practices to do it! We’re more likely to say, “I’m SO busy…”
What do you think?