Tuesday, July 17, 2012: Fasting

July 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

“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.” ~ Matthew 6.17, 18 ~ 

As we have seen before in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ has just given his audience a negative command: he told them not to be like the hypocrites who try to attract attention to themselves through their “holy” habits. Now, Christ encourages his disciples with a positive command: “But when you fast, do these things…” Notice that Christ assumes his disciples have been fasting, are fasting, and will continue to fast as a regular part of their lives. Don’t stop a good practice just because some people don’t do it properly! 

What are Christ’s disciples to do? They should take care of themselves and live in ways that do not attract attention. Christ contrasts the behavior of his audience with the behavior of the hypocrites: the hypocrites neglected even basic hygiene so that passerby would note their suffering and think they were reverent and pious. However, a true follower of Christ should not neglect basic habits of cleanliness simply because she might be fasting; in other words, Christ’s followers do not draw attention to themselves by their so-called “holy habits” or “spiritual exercises.” 

Rather, Christ encourages his audience to shift the goal of their spiritual living. The true spiritual life should be lived before God alone. By doing this, the worshipper will reap the benefits of proper focus: a closer relationship with God instead of a false reputation with others. 

There will be times when believers, doing what God has called them to do, will wind up in the spotlight as a natural part of living out their God-given purposes. Christ’s exhortation here challenges us not to seek the spotlight for our own sake. The behind-the-scenes stuff is what really matters. False humility simply has no place in God’s Kingdom. 

Lord Christ, I confess my attention-grabbing ways to you. Help me to be content and only concerned with seeking your approval. Amen. 

How do you seek attention? Why do you seek it? Who do you seek it from? 


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