Our devotions this Lenten season have been written by members of Faith Lutheran Church. Today’s devotion is Carl Watson. Also, if you would like to join our staff in praying the liturgy for Responsive Prayer/Suffrages just click here.
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. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:16-21
In these verses from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has already spoken of giving and praying. He now speaks of fasting and, just as he did when he spoke of giving and praying, he uses the words “when you fast,” meaning he expects us to fast as a normal part of our Christian life. The purpose of denying ourselves food (denying the flesh) is to focus the time we are not eating on getting closer to God by communing and praying and filling ourselves with the Holy Spirit. Fasting for today’s Christians is rarely preached about or practiced; it is more like an ignored spiritual discipline. It has been said fasting is opening a door to a deeper, more intimate, and stronger relationship with God.
Jesus also says, “do not look somber as the hypocrites do.” The hypocrites would go to the extremes and make a big deal of their fasting to the public to show man how holy they were. They went so far as to fast on the second and fifth day of the week to commemorate Moses getting the law from God on the Mount on those days. It turns out those days were market days when the produce would come to town, so they would have a larger crowd to play to. They would mess up their hair, wear ragged clothes and make up to look pale and weak. They have their reward says Jesus, the praise of men and not the good graces of God. He does not like their false worship.
When Solomon wrote the books of wisdom for Israel, he made the point of a cord or rope braided with three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). So it is also true, when giving, praying, and fasting are practiced together in the life of a Christian believer, it creates a threefold cord that is not easily broken.
As our Christian duty we must learn to give and pray and fast. Jesus is teaching us. We must listen.
Let us pray: Gracious heavenly Father, teach us to be stronger Christians by using the words Jesus has given to us. Help us to be closer to you by following the ways presented in them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.