Never to Impress Others
Wednesday - September 22nd
Scripture to Read Today: Matthew 6:16-18
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do,
for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.
Fasting comes with an inherent danger. The same potential risk exists as we seek to practice any of the spiritual disciplines. Fasting should be treated as a means to a spiritual end, not as an end unto itself. Without a deep passion and clear focus, it can become only an exterior exercise. It can be reduced to an empty routine or habit.
In Luke 18:12, Jesus shares the story of a Pharisee who boasted in his public prayer to God about his fasting two times a week. Pharisees commonly and noticeably fasted on the second and fifth days of the week. These two days happened to be the Jewish market's busiest days. Farmers, merchants, and shoppers flooded the city on the very same days of fasting by the Pharisees. So the days that had the largest crowds showing up in Jerusalem "happened to be" the days the religious leaders chose to fast openly and publicly. Jesus condemned such forms of fasting. He condemned the practice of fasting to gain public notice and admiration.
Jesus exposed and rebuked this kind of phony spirituality in His most famous of messages, the Sermon on the Mount:
"And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you." -Jesus (Matthew 6:16-18 NLT)
As God's children, we can so easily take that which is sacred and holy, designed to draw us closer to our Heavenly Father, and abuse it. We turn it into a merely mechanical, religious demonstration that we use to impress others of our spirituality. What God intended to draw us closer to Him now actually distances us from Him because we have hijacked and perverted it.
God notices what we are doing, and He isn't pleased. He made His displeasure known to His people in the Old Testament. Through the prophet, Zechariah God asked the people and the priests of Israel, "During those seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and at the festival in early autumn, was it really for Me that you were fasting?" (Zechariah 7:5 NLT).
When we fast, we should do it privately, focusing on drawing closer to our God - never on impressing others.