“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18 NAS)
I believe Jesus picked this issue of fasting to illustrate what it means to honor God as our Father and how we can begin treating Him as holy. Here are three observations:
- Fasting is a great picture of how we treat God as holy because the very nature of the Christian life is about denying self and living for Christ. While fasting is a small microcosmic illustration it is powerful in describing the essential nature of honoring God and treating Him as holy.
- Any spiritual activity can turn to hypocrisy when it is done to impress people rather than seek God.
- Genuine humility is rewarded by God. Clearly this is not so much conforming to a discipline or spiritual practice as it needs to be a reflection of the heart before God. Fasting gives us a great picture of abject transparency and vulnerability in standing before God alone.
Having mentioned all this I believe that for many of us fasting can be a very helpful spiritual practice. It challenges us to abstain, forego, and set aside those things that reflect our desire, comfort, and even needs in order to concentrate time to seek after God. The struggle with such an activity is that it exposes our weaknesses and our, for lack of a better term, addictions to the stuff of this life. We can find this very hard because we have become very dependent on “these things”. But the key is understanding as, Paul said in Philippians 3, that he considers all things to be rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus His Lord.
We honor God as Father when we live with humility before Him. We treat His name as holy when we learn to give our whole life to Him as a child of God and obey all that He has commanded.
Pastor Brad Little