Jesus does not attack fasting. He attacks the hypocritical way of fasting—the Facebook way. What is the “Facebook” fasting of the hypocrites? Jesus said, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt. 6:16). The hypocrites love to look “gloomy” when fasting. The word, “gloomy” (Gk. skuthropos), means, “sad.” (Gingrich) Jesus said, Don’t be like the hypocrites when they fast. They want to look gloomy and grim, sad, and sorrowful.
Not only that, they “disfigure their faces” (v. 16). The word, “disfigure” (Gk. aphanizo), means, to “render invisible or unrecognizable.” (Gingrich) The NASB is more accurate: “for they neglect their appearance.” How do they neglect their appearance? Most likely, they follow the OT way of fasting. In the OT, people who fast would put ashes on their faces. In doing so, they become unrecognizable. These hypocrites want to appear dirty, untidy, and unkempt.
For what purpose do they do that? Jesus said, “That their fasting may be seen by others.” That is the Facebook Fasting, fasting to be seen by others. There’s a little bit of irony in Matthew’s words. They hide their faces, in order to be seen. (Hagner)
What do they receive in return? “They have received their reward” (Matt. 6:16). The verb, “receive” (Gk. aphecho), is interesting. It is a business term. It means, “to receive a sum in full and give a receipt for it.” (Gingrich) Just like when you pay food at Jollibee. You give P100.00 to the Jollibee girl. She says, “I receive P100.00.” Then she issues you a receipt for it. That’s aphecho, to receive in full.
It’s in the present tense—“they receive their reward.” The hypocrites receive their reward. They receive it in full and no more. They receive their reward here on earth, but no more in heaven. They receive their reward from people, but not from God.
Do you want to receive the praises of people today? I don’t want to receive the praises of people on earth. I want to receive the praises of God in heaven!
Sometimes, we do holy things on the outside, but out of unholy motives on the inside. We do good things externally, but we have a bad motive internally. But in the Kingdom of God, we must be careful that we do good things in secret, without showing off to get the glory.
That’s the second point of Jesus.