Fasting for the Father

2.8.24 Devo Image

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”—Matthew 6:16–18 (NIV)

Jesus never left things as He found them. When you follow along on His earthly travels while here on the earth, you see He was constantly changing that which He came into contact with. This goes for people like Simon, John, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, and countless others who came to Him for a healing touch on their bodies and souls. But Jesus didn’t just transform people, He also changed the very systems that governed their lives.

Case in point: When Jesus ascended to higher ground and began to share what we now refer to as The Sermon on the Mount, He shattered the religious system of His day . . . and the world hasn’t been the same since! 

Leading up to this moment, the spiritual aspects of life were seen through a legalistic lens. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt and formed them into a new nation, one of the first things He did was give them a system of law (known as the Law of Moses). This system, comprised of 613 individual commands, served as a basis for how God’s people were to relate to Him and to each other. It brought order to a disorderly world.  

Over time; however, under the Law of Moses a legalistic mindset began to dominate spiritual perspectives. People saw spiritual things like giving, prayer, and fasting as a merit system. By the letter of the Law, if you just do the right things, then that makes everything right, right? And the more “right” you are, the more reward you’ll get in terms of other’s admiration and approval.  

The religious leaders had turned fasting into a sort of spiritual merit badge by making it externally obvious they were fasting. It was really an early form of humble-bragging. “Oh, don’t mind me and my wearied appearance, I’m just suffering for God.” But in their hearts, where things matter most to God, they were infected with the most unspiritual pride.  

Jesus calls this behavior out and turns the system that fueled it on its head. While He affirms these activities as being spiritual, He also goes beyond the activity and digs into the motivations behind them. It’s not just “what you do,” but it’s “why you do it” that truly matters. That’s what the Lord is putting His finger on here when it comes to the practice of fasting. He reveals what ought to be the true motivation for fasting, and that motivation is found in the word “Father.” 

Why fast? Simply because it brings you closer to your heavenly Father. What greater reward is there than that? Fasting is something every follower of Christ should experience and exercise. But the motive should always be God-ward, never man-ward. 

Fast with the Father in mind, draw closer to Him through it, and allow His nearness to be its own reward. 

Pause: What did Jesus need to call out in His day?

Practice: This passage causes us to think and reflect on our own lives and perspectives on spiritual disciplines like fasting. So, lean into that today. Ask yourself how this passage affects or changes your perspective on fasting. Then consider how you can put this into practice.

Pray: Father, we confess we’re prone to reducing our relationship with You to a set of impersonal rules and regulations. Help us to change our way; help us to see the things that bring us closer to You as You see them. Move our motivations from impure to pure, and make us more like You in this way. Amen. 

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.