Right Thing, Right Way

“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.”—Matthew 6:16 (NKJV)

Fasting is fascinating. On one level, it’s almost universally recognized as something very good and noble. For example, have you ever been in a casual conversation with someone only to find out they’re fasting at that particular time? I have, and if you have then your reaction was probably similar to mine, “Oh, wow . . . that’s great, awesome . . . I hope that goes well for you, God bless.”

All this as I start to feel a bit guilty that I’m not the one fasting! But the point I think we all get is that nobody really pushes back on fasting as being a bad thing, especially when it comes to someone else fasting. We generally acknowledge it’s a good thing.

But then there’s another level, when we make the determination to fast in our own personal and private lives. How good does it seem to us then? If I’m honest, my perception of others fasting and the way I personally view fasting does not always match up. If it was really as good as I perceive it to be for others, it would have a much different place in my life. It would define me in a much different way!

There’s often a gap, a real disconnect between what fasting truly is and what we tend to make it out to be. Which is why Jesus’ words to us in today’s passage are so freeing. In just a succinct statement, He tells us what we need to know about fasting.

First, He affirms its place and value in our lives: “When you fast” presumes it is happening and certainly worth doing. It’s the right thing to do, so let’s be convinced on that important point. But then Jesus goes on to warn against fasting in a hypocritical manner by flaunting the fact that you’re fasting. In that case, you may as well not be fasting at all because although you may be doing the right thing, you’re doing it the wrong way!

The Lord is telling us that fasting is good and right, and that it should occupy a place in our lives. But He also warns us against the temptation that naturally arises in our sinful heart to draw attention to it because that’s taking the right thing in the wrong direction. We need to see and balance both realities of fasting in our lives. May the Lord help us in doing the right thing the right way!

PAUSE: What two realities does Jesus reveal to us about fasting here? With regard to fasting, what does it look like to do the right thing the right way?

PRACTICE: Write down what you see. How does fasting impact your relationship with God, your obedience, and sin in your life? Next, consider fasting one meal every day this week and spending that time with the Lord in prayer and devotion, seeking His heart and breakthrough.

PRAY: Father, as I uncover greater and deeper things of Your Word and Your ways, I pray You would show me how to proceed. As I enter into habits, such as fasting, I pray for wisdom and the right heart. I don’t want to engage in any of these practices just out of guilt, obligation, or to earn Your favor, but to walk deeper in Your grace and truth, to experience Your love and presence on a deeper level. Amen.

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