Matthew 6:1-2, 16-21
The Rev.Adele K. Langworthy
March 2, 2022
A healthy heart pumps at the rate of about 100,000 beats a day and 2,000 gallons of life-giving blood flowing through a body. When our heart isn’t working at its best, it is very difficult to live life to the fullest. Even when we have physical heart health issues and our heart is not at its prime, we can take steps to be as healthy as possible—we can take a look at our diet, level of exercise and lifestyle practices to see where an adjustment might be needed to optimize living. A person may even need to undergo a heart transplant if their heart is too diseased.
When it comes to our spiritual hearts, we are all diseased by sin—no matter how hard we may try not to be tainted. But our spiritual heart health is not hopeless by any means. God is ready, as our spiritual heart physician, to change our heart upon invitation—to mold and make our heart to be more like his. When we invite God into our hearts, our heart won’t magically be healthier. Yes, we will experience forgiveness and a new lease on life from God, which is to be celebrated and embraced, but the gift also involves a commitment on our part. We need to take a hard look at our spiritual diet, our level of spiritual exercise, and our lifestyle practices to see where healthy adjustments need to be made to keep our God-cleansed heart as healthy as it can be.
The Lenten Season is a great time to do just that. Research has shown that it takes 66 days to make a new habit automatic. The Lenten Season is 40 days long, chosen because Jesus fasted and prayed, preparing to enter public ministry, over a period of 40 days and nights. Sundays during Lent are considered mini-Easter celebrations, reminding us of the gift of the resurrection—a gift that is with us even in our Lenten walk and can not be denied. So, by the end of Lent and the Sundays in Lent, we can be well on our way to making new habits automatic, or strengthening habits we already have begun, that will affect our spiritual diet, our level of spiritual exercise and lifestyle practices for heart health.
What might those habits be that would benefit your spiritual diet?
Would they include being fed more by what God may think than what others might think or say?
Verse 1 is a great reminder of what we need to keep in mind as we reflect upon the health of our spiritual diet feeding our heart: 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.
Would they include quietly praying and/or fasting to deepen your walk with God?
Verses 17 & 18 are a great reminder here: But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
What might those habits be that would benefit your spiritual exercise and lifestyle practices?
Would they include evaluating how much to give to the poor and needy, and determining what to give, and how to do so, without drawing attention to yourself?
Verse 2 is a great reminder of what we need to keep in mind as we reflect upon healthy spiritual exercise and lifestyle practices: So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Would they include evaluating which world you wish to serve—earth or heaven?
Verses 19 & 20 are a great reminder here: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Francis Chan is someone who seeks to have a healthy spiritual heart, who knows his treasure is in heaven, and who embraces the words of verse 21: where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
Francis Chan writes, “ I was on a plane to Africa, and I was sitting next to this Muslim guy. I started asking him about his beliefs,
[Francis Chan didn’t say he was a famous author, teacher and preacher—he kept a low profile.]
and he was asking me about my life, and I told him how Jesus had changed my life. He said, “You know, I just hope you’re not one of those radicals. I used to wait tables, and I’d have these Christian customers who would just preach at me.” I was sitting there listening to him and just praying that God would give me the words to say.
[Francis listened and prayed quietly.]
“We started talking about other things, and he asked me, “Why are you going to Africa?” I told him that I’d been a few years before and had seen all the kids there who were starving and looking through the trash heaps for food, for water, for anything. They had no education, and their lives were just dwindling away. I told him how it broke my heart, and how when I got back to the States, I started selling things to raise money, and I got my friends to start selling things, and the church started giving more, and through all of that, we were able to build schools in Africa and teach the people how to farm and how to do this and that. I told him I was going back to see some of that. I told him how excited I was.”
[Francis gave alms to the poor, without bringing attention to himself —it was about helping those in need.]
Francis continued, “And this guy just looked at me with really big eyes and said, ‘That is amazing to me. So you’re one of those… I can’t understand the charity of some believers—why they would sacrifice their own stuff for someone they might not even know.’”
[Francis was living what it meant to not store up things in this world.]
Francis’s acquaintance wanted to understand better why people would sacrifice for someone they did not know. So he told him, “Well, I see in Scripture that I’m supposed to become like Jesus… The Bible says Jesus laid down his life for us, and that was an example that we should lay down our lives for our brothers. That’s why we do what we do.” Francis continued “I loved how, when this guy saw that we loved, things changed for him… our love for people intrigued him.”
Francis Chan practices good heart health. He has a healthy spiritual diet, and exercises his faith through prayer and lifestyle practices that bear witness to the love of Jesus. Are you ready to do likewise?
I invite you to prayerfully ask God to create in you a clean heart.