Ash Wednesday: Reward
Many of us puzzle over the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading from Matthew: "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. 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. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.... " (Matthew 6:1-3, NRSV)
What's all this about being rewarded, and why is it that the hypocrites receive a reward? We're pretty sure we're not supposed to emulate the hypocrites here, but, hey, what about their reward?
Perhaps we might put Jesus' words another way: If you look to the world to reward you for your actions, then you'll get the world's reward. You'll be noticed, which was probably what you were looking for. If you do something for show, you'll get a showman's reward. Perhaps applause, perhaps boos. If you look to please or impress others, you will get a response from those others.
But that's all you will get, because that's all the world can give you.
But God's gift is grace and peace and the life that really is life. And that's so much more than the world could ever give. That's the reward that comes from God, salvation, which is "all" that God has to offer.