The Kingdom of Ought and the World of Is

Ash Wednesday  |  Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Eggs on GravelWe live in the world that is. One might think that is obvious, but it isn’t.

People all over the world, all of their lives, keep expecting the world to function as it ought to do, but it doesn’t happen. The world is as it is, not as it ought to be. Realizing that fact can be disheartening, but it makes one a better adjusted citizen of this world.

It is also an opportunity.

People of faith lay claim to a different kingdom, a kingdom that does function as it ought. The pursuit of what ought to be makes the world a livable place.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus keeps using two phrases to describe two groups of people: “Truly, I tell you, they have their reward” and “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The first group of people appear to be what they ought to be, but they aren’t. The second group are what they ought to be, though they may not look it. Both groups may fool us, one into thinking them better people than they are, the other into believing they are only what they appear to be.

God, we are told, knows the difference, and so ought we.

Jesus’ words are not really concerned with rewards and recognition, whether from God or from the world. It is simpler, and harder, than that: despite what the world is, be as you ought.

Don’t seem. Be.

We live in the World of Is, but we are bringing to pass the Kingdom of Ought.