Summary: Generally speaking, Fasting is about going without food in order to spend time in prayer with God and meditate on God’s Word – this is noble but difficult.
When you Fast – Do not Advertise
Generally speaking, Fasting is about going without food in order to spend time in prayer with God and meditate on God’s Word – this is noble but difficult. (But Fasting is not hunger strike).
In the passage that was read to us… we find that Jesus was not condemning fasting, but hypocrisy – fasting in order to gain public approval.
Jesus commended acts of self-sacrifice done quietly and sincerely. He wanted people to adopt spiritual disciples for the right reasons, not from a selfish desire for praise.
The basic purpose of fasting is humility of a person and his dependence on God. If we make a show of our fasting, there will be no reward other than the praise of men. This was the error of the Scribes and the Pharisees. They did some good things but with a wrong motive.
William Shakespeare once said that the world is a stage… and all the men and women are merely players.” “And one man, who continues the playwright,… “in his time plays many parts…”
Well Jesus teaching on prayer and fasting in the Sermon on the Mount is full with the language of the stage out here. Jesus teaches that we are not to do our charity in order to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1). We are not to give a theatre experience in real life, because the real audience for us is not people, but God.
To do things for only appearance (Matthew 6:5) is just dramatic and pretentious display (Matthew 6:16). Jesus calls the people who are motivated for such self-glory to advertise their prayer or fasting, as “hypocrites”! (which means play-actors!)
The word Hypocrite is a Greek word, and it stands for a person who wears a mask to act in a play on the stage of a theatre ( 6:5; 16; 7:5). Not necessarily an insulting term because being a professional job for a livelihood; but in the religious sense the word hypocrite here describes people who do good acts without good motives in real life
only for the sake of appearance.
So Jesus says such kind of fasting is hollow (empty/dead/flat/worthless/insincere/
pointless from eternal perspective).
Hypocrites like to have their deeds of fasting, prayer broadcast-ed and announced publicly. Jesus was not happy with those people who made publicity of their private prayer, because He knew that those people wanted the praise of men in order to feel good about themselves!
Advertising is one important way to attract new customers. And the key to marketing is offering an excellent customer experience. (that is what I was taught during my Commerce days).
But when we do business with God be it in fasting or prayer or anything…., we should not think about it in the sense of publicity.
So Jesus says when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face (v17). You see oil (perhaps olive oil here) was used a cosmetic a lotion. So Jesus is basically saying, “Go about your normal daily routine when you fast. Don’t make a show of it. And don’t be eager to give the impression of being devout. Because this is hypocrisy.”
Every pretension of being righteous should be avoided. Don’t advertise your righteousness in public. Because a tree is recognised by its fruit (Mt. 12:33).
Most of the advertisements are only screensavers. Because sometimes when you watch a product being advertised its working in the television, but when you get it home, its not functioning.
And so Jesus challenges us to get into the closet (Matthew 6:6), into the store room where God is already laying up our heavenly treasures (Matthew 6:20). Private prayer and fasting should be just that: you (v16 singular), alone in the presence of the all-knowing God (1 Samuel 2:3). But the reward on the day of reckoning will be public (Matthew 6:6).
But the Reward that God promises (v 18) for fasting is not material always.
But the reward for the hypocrites who advertise their fasting is (v16)
- Empty acts
- Applauded and seen by people.
• But they have moved nothing in the spiritual warfare
• They have not experienced a breakthrough, nor a deliverance, nor a miracle.
• They have not come closer in fellowship with God
True Christianity is not the gloomy and miserable affair which some of its play-actors portray (Matthew 6:16). So when we fast, Jesus says wash-up; brush up; and be your usual manner (Matthew 6:17). Jesus points out that the approval of God is far more to be desired than the applause of men (Matthew 6:18).
When we go about our righteous duties without drawing attention to ourselves, we are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). The God who reads our hearts and motives better than we can read them ourselves (Matthew 6:21) will make an open show of His approval on your life at the final curtain (Matthew 25:34-40). What greater appreciation can we possibly require?