Day Ten – Motive Matters
Fasting Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2018
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:1,16 ESV)
“Beware” – a word that usually warns us of potential danger – is spoken here by Jesus as he urges us to take heed lest we end up doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons. In this case, he warns us not to parade our spiritual practices before others in an attempt to gain the praise of man, and specifically, not to fast with an eye toward impressing those around us. In a culture that craves attention and applause, the temptation to broadcast our “acts of righteousness” can be great, even when that broadcasting is simply dropping subtle statements about how hungry we are with the hopes that this will pave the way to share the fact that we are fasting. It is human nature to want others to think highly of us, but if the reward we seek is the approval of others, that may very well be the reward we get, and although the taste may be momentarily sweet, in the end it will leave us empty and unsatisfied.
Fasting provides us with a perfect opportunity to lay aside our addiction to the approval of others and to quietly focus on God, resting and rejoicing in his approval of us. Rather than calling attention to ourselves when we fast, it is a time when we can call out to God and ask him to open our eyes to see Him more clearly, to open our hearts to love him more deeply, and to open our lips to declare his praises rather than to seek praises for ourselves. Instead of feeding our desire to be esteemed by others, fasting is a means of finding in God that which will truly fulfill our souls.
Reflection: In your everyday life, how strong would you say your desire is for the approval of others? Would it be hard for you to serve or give if it was only seen by God?