"It's the heart that really matters in the end": Ash Wednesday

So, recently on the ship I posed the question to one of my Christians friends on the ship..."what is the origin of Ash Wednesday, and does it have any biblical basis?" We both basically came to the conclusion that the subject should be studied further...so I did some studying. My first thought was to search Wikipedia to see what it said on the subject.

There was one paragraph in the article that really answered my question...here it is:

It (Ash Wednesday) marks the start of a forty day period which is an allusion to the separation of Jesus in the desert to fast and pray. During this time he was tempted. Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13.[13] WHILE NOT SPECIFICALLY INSTITUTED IN THE BIBLE TEXT, the 40 day period of repentance is also analogous to the 40 days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the Golden calf.

Herein lies the answer to our question...Ash Wednesday is not instituted in the Bible. I believe however that we can find some guiding principles in the bible that can help us decide if this is a practice that we should partake of. I think in the end it must come down to the heart...while Ash Wednesday practices may be good, and the subsequent fasting and prayer that often follows, what matters is if we have the proper Godly motivation for doing it, and do we have the correct heart attitude about it.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:16-18

Often times people will fast, and will give up something for this 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but they do it for the status...they do it so that they can appear to be spiritual. This is where we miss the mark...I would rather not even participate in this practice if I know that my heart is not right about it, than do it for the wrong reasons.

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Colossians 3:22 & 23

We were put on this earth with the purpose of serving the Lord with our lives...we should not do anything because it pleases men, or it gives us a status here on earth. We must do all things to the Glory of our Father in Heaven. If we participate in the fasting following Ash Wednesday in an honest heart of wanting to draw closer to God through it, by all means participate, but if participating is done to please men it is not right, and should not be done.


Rosebud said…
Hm, that is quite interesting. I tend to want to keep away from Ash Wednesday because of its association with Roman Catholicism, but I guess it is truly an issue of the heart - if you're going to fast to please the Lord, then do it; but if to please men, then DON'T. It's the same thing with any other area of Christian sacrifice or service.
True...we have to be careful. This same idea can be applied to even Christmas...while it is not implimented in the Bible, it is something that we must celebrate with the idea of glorifying God in it.
Prairie Momma said…
Intriguing post, and it certainly is a subject that causes you to stop and think. There are a lot of practices in the assembly of the church that are man made traditions rather than Biblically based, and I'm only just discovering that. I'm very encouraged to see a young man seeking after the truth rather than bowing before man (I've read several of your posts), and I appreciate the encouragement you've given me today. My older daughter sent me to your blog, and I plan on sending my boys here to be challenged and encouraged as they strive to not only give their lives completely to God but to find ways to lovingly admonish and uplift The Body of Believers. It will be a joy to be praying for you as you serve our country as well (my step-dad was a Navy man :)). A book suggestion is "Pagan Christianty" since you seem to be a Berean at heart. Blessings to you!!
Wow...thanks "Prairie Momma!" Like I said in response to your other comment...I'm glad I can be a blessing to you, and to your family.

I do try to be a Berean, but I don't always do a good job. But I think all Christians should strive to be Bereans. I think it's so important for Christians to be searching the scriptures daily. So often we allow things to come into our church that should not be there because we don't have a good knowledge about what God's word says on that particular issue. My goal is that, as a pastor in the future, I will be a Pastor who seaches the scriptures to preach, and doesn't use his own fleshly opinions on an issue. Anyways...like I said, I'm glad I can be a blessing. I will have to check out that book. It's sounds like it could be an interesting read.
Prairie Momma said…
It is an interesting read and one that really challenged our family (and still does). You said that "so often we allow things to come into our church....." I agree, but even more so, I think that we fundamentally forget that WE are THE church. We are the Body and if we aren't careful to watch over what comes into each part of The Body (aka - the church), then we should not be surprised by what we find showing up in the church gathered. Stay strong. A verse I just wrote out to memorize this morning was 1 Chronicles 28:9. "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you SEEK Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever." I think we too often forget to seek Him and then find ourselves ultimately forsaking Him. Be encouraged and stand firm! Blessings to you.