For Whom the Horn Blows
Readings: Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
"Do not blow a trumpet before you." Mt 6:2
Imagine that when Michelangelo was sculpting his famous "David," instead of forming the tense, pre-battle storm on the brow of the biblical hero, he left the brow blank, then carved "by Michelangelo" on it. Wouldn't that ruin it? Imagine that the Statue of Liberty, instead of having a torch lifted high to signify the light of liberty, held a placard that read "by Fredéric Auguste Bartholdi." Wouldn't that destroy the statue's message?
Both men knew better than to engage in such self-promotion, knowing full well that it is the work itself that's meaningful, not the fact that they themselves created it.
When we do a good deed, for whom do we do it? For the receiver or for ourselves to receive praise?
Jesus asks us to consider these questions as we live out our faith. He stresses that God will not reward those who do good deeds for self-glorification. By blowing our own trumpets and calling attention to ourselves, we deny glory to the one truly deserving of it — the one who died for our sins and who emptied "Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness" in order to save us (Phil 2:3-7).
Once asked what's the hardest instrument to play, the composer Leonard Bernstein famously answered, "Second fiddle." In a culture geared toward individual high achievement and recognition, he knew second fiddlers are hard to come by — but just as essential. Remember: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6).
On this day, Ash Wednesday, we have our foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross to remind us that we are owned — that we are dust and slaves as God willed us to be. Whether it's a fiddle we play or a trumpet we blow, we should do so in praise of Him.
Lord Jesus, help me to glorify You by living the example You set. Help me in this day to do good deeds for others in Your name. Guide me in Your call for humility and compassion. Amen.
1 Cor 9:17-18