Is Ash Wednesday Biblical?

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

I just received a bag of ashes in the mail from Amazon. According to the labeling, it should be adequate to impose ashes on 1,000 people. I have my doubts the supply will go this far, but only time will tell. I’m also wondering about the lasting impact these ashes will have on those of us who are receiving them.

Is Ash Wednesday an empty ritual?


By the Rivers of Babylon, Gebhard Fugel

On occasion I’ve debated with some evangelical friends regarding the legitimacy of the Ash Wednesday service. After all, Jesus warned against practicing our piety before others in order to be seen by others. Interestingly, this same warning happens to be the lectionary Gospel lesson for Ash Wednesday. But since God accepted ashes as a sign of repentance in the Old Testament, I think it is an acceptable sign for us today. (Jonah 3:5-7; 1 Kings 21:27; Daniel 9:3)

Ashes can remind us of our mortality (Genesis 3:19) and the day when we will stand before God and be judged. To prepare for this day, we must die to ourselves and rise to new life in Christ (Luke 9:23; 1 Peter 2:24). Ashes are an invitation to set aside the next 40 days for prayer, fasting, self-denial and meditating on God’s Word. It is a time for being reconciled to God and each other.

Ash Wednesday ashes are a call for us to repent and believe the Gospel.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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