Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:16-18

"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." -Matthew 6:16-18

What does this command require?

When you fast, do not make it obvious to others like the hypocrites. Fast in the secret place, where you are only seen by God.

What truths do we learn through this command?

I think it is wise to have a good, solid understanding of what the Bible says about fasting before drawing any conclusions on these verses. If you have Bible software or Strong's concordance, look up 'fast, fasting,' to get a quick idea of what the Scriptures say. I have listed these verses here for your convenience. There is only about 60 verses. Just take a quick look.

When the hypocrites fasted, they would let everyone know how painful it was for them. They wanted the praise of men for 'looking so spiritual.' Jesus says that they have their reward. They were looking for the praise of men and they got it. Jesus never promises that the Father will reward fasting like that. In fact, Jesus implies here that the praise of men is all they will get for their fasting. So if they were fasting to get an answer from God or to mourn some loss, they would not get anything from God. How sad that the praise of men is the end of their reward.

We learn here that the Father is in the secret place. There is a place where you can go to meet with God. As in the previous commands on prayer, we are to go to that secret place to fast where only God can see. Fasting can bring you closer to God. Fasting is a way to commune with God and experience His fellowship. What a wonderful truth this is!

This command also comes with a promise. Essentially, follow Jesus' teaching on fasting, and God will reward you openly. Fasting is a tricky subject. We have not been given detailed instructions on when to fast, why fast, or how long to fast. But if you simply follow what Jesus has said about fasting, you will at least be going in the right direction. I believe that Jesus has left the when, why and how up to the discretion of the faster. You decide. What is the best time and reason for you to fast?

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

hypocritical lifestyle, limited reward, lack of fellowship with God.

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