Reading the Word
Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Understanding and Applying the Word
Fasting is the putting aside of food so a person can spend more time in pursuit of God. In Scripture, it was done in times of distress and great need. It was used as a way to say “God, I need you more than anything to intercede in my circumstances right now. I need you more than even food.” Over time, fasting became a way the religious gauged how spiritual they were. The more one fasted, the more spiritual they were. So, people would fast and let everyone else know about it so they would be recognized as spiritual.
Jesus points this out as hypocrisy. Those who behave in this way are not fasting to appeal to God, they simply want to be seen by others. Jesus says that they have already received their reward (i.e. the recognition of others). Instead of trying to impress others, Jesus says our fasting should be done in such a way that no one even knows that it is happening. Only God should know. In this way, we are not seeking the approval of others, but truly seeking God.
Unfortunately, many are still caught up in performing religious acts for show. Just about everything we do can be done for the wrong reasons. We go to church, we pray, we fast, we ask questions and say all of the right things in our Bible studies. But are we doing them to be noticed by others or are we doing them out of the sincerity of our heart? Are our religious acts for show or are we truly seeking God? Ask yourself today, “Who are you trying to please?”
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