“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” (Mt 6:16-18)
Fasting is a spiritual exercise that has great gain. It is one of the greatest Christian disciplines to learn self-control. Simply said, we deny ourselves from food and other pleasure things for the purpose of seeking God. The Holy Spirit helps us to fast and to pray. Fasting is also great weapon in spiritual warfare. We fast especially when things are difficult, when we are under an evil attack.
The Lord attracts our attention to the power of the flesh that can hinder even spiritual things like prayer and fasting. Self wants to be noticed, to be attended to. It desires fame and glory. Religion does not change self. It only adds some superficial beauty that fades with time. Our Lord said that if we desire to be His disciples, His intimate friends, then we must do three things: deny self, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Mt 16:24). More than any other spiritual exercise, it is the Spirit lead fasting and prayer that helps to deny self, to crucify the flesh. Then your spirit can mature, manifesting fruits to the glory of God.
The danger of hypocrisy in religious circles is very high. The word ‘hypocrite’ means to be an actor, to play another character and not yourself. A hypocrite is a liar and a deceiver, a child of the devil. He pretends to be better than he is, to feel high emotions he is not able to feel in reality. The hypocrites look sad when they fast. The word ‘sad’ also means angry, frustrated, depressed and mourning. They give the impression that God’s commandments are burdensome. They indirectly say that the yoke of Jesus is heavy and difficult. They give a false impression of Christ. They break the command to “rejoice always!”. This is the truth: The joy of the Lord is the seal of an ambassador of Christ. He represents Christ who now seats in heaven filled with eternal joy.
The hypocrites ‘disfigure their faces’. In Greek, the word ‘disfigure’ means to hide behind shadows, to vanish away, drawing back towards the darkness, refusing to manifest the truth about himself. Hypocrites are mysterious people. You will not know who they really are. In fasting and prayers they look very religious, but it is just a cover up to impress men with their spirituality. Some are very good in acting the part, they are like professional players. Their intent is to deceive the audience, to attract men (and their money) to them. Any form of flattery coming from men, if accepted, that is their reward. God will not answer their prayers. The applause of men is their salary. The money of men is their wages.
How then shall we fast as children of God? The first thing we remember is that we do it for God. That is why we go into the secret place of the Most High God. We die to men’s opinions and desire only God’s truth. We die to hypocrisy and chose to live an honest life. Our fasting and prayers do not change God. But thru these difficult spiritual exercises, we change ourselves. Pride, selfish ambition, cowardice, doubt, foolishness and others, shall die. We become humble, gentle, bold, wise and faithful. We prove to God that we are serious believers, that we have humbled ourselves ready to receive God’s blessings. We may deceive men but we can never deceive God. He knows all things and sees all things. Please remember this: God is more interested in the motives than in the actions. God looks at the heart. If the Father finds you faithful and true, He will reward you openly. In the presence of men and angels He will say:
“Well done good and faithful servant! Enter the joy of your Lord! Be in charge over cities and nations! Rule them in My name! For My glory alone!”
In Christ I declare:
I fast and pray in the secret place, for God alone!
I reject every form of religious hypocrisy!
I deny self, take up my cross daily and follow Jesus my Lord!
In Jesus name