Reading: Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21
Verse 16: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.”
Jesus addresses how we are to practice some of the disciplines of our faith in today’s passage. He begins with a warning to “be careful” how we do these things. Jesus addresses our giving, our prayer life, and our fasting. Jesus warms us today about doing these things for show. If we, for example, flash around our cash before theatrically placing it in the offering plate, then we have failed. Impressing people does not translate to eternity. The same is true for how we pray. It should be about talking to God, about being personal and intimate with God. It is not about flashy intonations and flowery words. These too only register with human eyes and ears.
In verses 16 Jesus addresses fasting. As we begin Lent today, let us focus on this section. The warning: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.” Today it could translate into complaining loudly to one and all about how much you miss your coffee each day – you know, because you gave it up for Lent. If, on the other hand, you add in a faith practice for Lent, maybe you whine or grumble a lot to your spouse or a friend about the gobs of extra time that God is requiring. As with the giving and the prayer, when we fast or practice another discipline to work on our relationship to and connection with God as a means to impress others, then it is not about God anymore.
With today’s teaching, Jesus was addressing the “hypocrites” – the super religious of his day. When we flaunt or make a big show of our faith, Jesus would have this same word for us. Our friends and neighbors certainly do. With these thoughts in mind, may we choose a humble and contrite journey in Lent.
Prayer: Lord God, use me to model a humble and simple faith. Keep my focus on our relationship and not on how others might see it. May this season be one of personal growth and a deepening of my relationship with you. Amen.