The Fasting of the Followers of Christ

'He's conscientious about most of his religious duties, but he's slow to fast.'Jesus said, “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face” (Matt. 6:17). In the Greek, it is emphatic—“but you.” The hypocrites fast like that. “But you,” you members of the Kingdom of God, you followers of Christ—be different. When the hypocrites fast, they look gloomy and dirty, to show everyone that they are fasting. But you, when you fast, don’t look gloomy and dirty.

How do you not look gloomy and dirty when you fast? Jesus said, “Anoint your head and wash your face.” The verb, “anoint” (Gk. aleipho), refers to “external physical application of oil or perfumed ointment.” (Friberg)

One day, Jesus told Simon, a Pharisee, a story (Lk. 7:36-46).

  • A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
  • When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
  • Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
  • Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
  • You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
  • You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

Palestinian Jews used oil to clean their head and skin. (Keener) They used oil as cosmetic. Today, we use Efficascent oil.

Jesus said, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face. What does that mean? Cleanliness. Good grooming. When the hypocrites fast, they look dirty. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, comb your hair, wash your face, put Ponds cream on it, spray Calvin Klein cologne on your body. Look good, look great, and look clean. When the hypocrites fast, they look gloomy. But you, look happy! In other words, take care never to look like you’re fasting. NEVER give a hint to others that you are fasting.

Why should they clean themselves when fasting? “That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:18). The reason is that only the Father should see them fasting, and not other people. Your fasting should be so secret that only your Father in heaven should know that you are fasting. True righteousness is to be secret—to be seen only by God.

How many of you watch, “Showtime.” In many churches today, it is a “Showtime” ministry. Many churches like to show off their ministry. They like to show off their good music, their nice building, and their acts of goodness to all the world. They receive their reward. Show-off ministries receive their reward from men, but not from God.

How do you judge a successful church or a successful ministry? Many people judge a successful church by attendance. “It’s the fastest growing church in Cebu—5,000 every Sunday.” Many people judge a successful ministry by baptism. “They baptized 100 people last year.” Many judge a successful church by the financial gifts. “They give a million pesos yearly; they built a big building.” Many judge a successful church by the worship music. “They have the most spiritual worship there.”

But if we think like that, we should think again. Jesus does not think like that. God does not reward us like that. God judges the success of a church by searching its peoples’ hearts. God judges you by evaluating its motives. God judges you by seeing their good works in secret. (Blomberg)

Jesus said, this kind of fasting, this kind of righteousness, receives the reward of the Father. Your Father, who sees all the secret things, shall reward you!

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