Tuesday 25 January, 2022

Matthew 6:16-18

16 “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“When you fast” – I can’t get past this first phrase.  “When” – not “if”, not “perhaps if you fast”; not “on the occasions when things are really difficult and you need to get God’s attention” but “when”.  The presumption of Jesus is that fasting is a normal element of the Christian life.  In fact, if we look at the introduction to the previous passage on prayer we get the same construction – “When you pray” (vs. 5).  I guess the question is ‘do I pray?’  The answer for pretty much everyone is Yes – like you even need to ask?  Yet why is it that fasting seems, well, extreme.  Is this denial of food so difficult, is it for super-Christians?  Or is it that our flesh, our appetites are so domineering that we don’t give fasting a place in our lives?  Is it that while prayer is kind of a religious duty that really doesn’t cost us much fasting, because it means giving something up at its core is somehow a bit too – well extreme?

I find myself reflecting on my need to fast – Jesus makes it plain – when – He expects it – so I should fast, I will fast!

Father, I ask that you would help me to put to death the appetites of my flesh which get in the way of an authentic Christian life – which includes devotion to You as shown in fasting!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    I have often read this passage and been arrested by its straightforwardness. This passage is about keeping the Lord as my highest priority. Yet I have always experienced a catch here. Because God is loving and gentle, and wants us to choose to love and serve Him rather than Him force us to, my acts of devotion and communication with Him can be, well haphazard. Often different things start to take over. I find myself reflecting that this passage is about loving and serving God for Himself, and commonly in secret, noting Jesus’ commentary on being seen to fast.

    Jesus makes clear that his followers are going to fast from time to time, as part of their prayer life and devotion to God. He also makes plain that some who fasted and prayed in His day seemed more about advertising their piety. Jesus makes plain that real fasting is between us and God, not something we do to show off. Clearly Jesus is speaking to the necessity of fasting and that we do so before the Lord not anyone else, hence a real sense of priority.

    So I pray that God work in me a heart of humility as I choose to love Him and continue a prayer and fasting life that is not about showing off but true devotion to Jesus.

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