Mathew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.”
Fasting is all the rage now. Be it intermittent or for longer periods, it seems that every health blog, wellness website and diet book is now geared to this centuries old religious ritual.
The sad thing?
It has nothing to do with actual spiritual worship and everything to do with idolatry of our bodies.
Fasting was created as a means of growing closer to God. It is a deep and very holy way of strengthening your reliance and thus your faith in the Father by means of feeding yourself solely spiritual food (John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.).
It has nothing to do with getting skinnier.
While the Pharisees were no doubt not making their goal with fasting to fit into their designer skinny jeans, they did do it in order to gain attention. They loved to be seen as perfect. As the old standard for living out the most holy of holy lives.
This was another reason why they hated Jesus so much.
Jesus was a rebel. He shook things ups.
Anything we do in Jesus’s name should be done in total humility with direct devotion to God. Intermittent fasting, non-religious fasting and religious fasting done more for the sake of weight loss (even just the slightest amount) is a sin towards God. It puts our own vanity, pride and perfectionism as the focal point over connecting in a deeply sacred fashion to the saving grace of God’s mercy over us.
Matthew 6:16 sates, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.”
Today, few look gloomy when fasting. It’s not used as a method of mourning. Nor, a tool to express deep pain and sorrow and need for God in one’s life, as it was created for. Rather, it’s seen as a sign of complete control over your body. It’s hailed as a symbol of strength over your ability to avoid all hunger cues and food temptations in the name of a “good-looking” physique. (and, keep in mind that “good-looking” is always subjective.)
We LOVE to boast in our fasting. Only the “elite” fast. The healthiest of healthiest. The most dedicated of body gurus.
The message is still the same as it was thousands of years ago.
Look at how dedicated I am and thus, morally superior.
This is what is so amazing about God. His word truly is eternal. The message never changes.
While we may not walk around looking all gloomy in our times of fasting as that does not reflect the trend of today, we do disfigure our faces and other parts of our bodies.
How? Weight- loss.
You can’t not eat and not lose weight….
and weight- loss disfigures the body. (stay with me here! My point is about to be made.)
The term “disfigured” carries meaning outside of ugly or deformed, as we most commonly understand it to mean.
Some more relatable synonyms regarding this topic are vandalize and impair. Spoil the attractiveness of.
When we fast we lose weight. When we lose weight our look changes. If we go below what our bodies set-point weight (the weight our individual bodies prefer to rest at in any given season of our lives) is, we are vandalizing our bodies, we are impairing the health of them and in the eyes of God, we are spoiling the attractiveness of them.
God created us to be a certain weight. Though that weight may change over the course of various seasons in our life, when we are eating in a spiritual way, a mostly intuitive manner, one that is centered, bending neither to one extreme or the other, our body settles right at the weight it should be…
…this pleases God.
However, when we try to manipulate that weight by forms such as fasting, we are trying to manipulate God’s very design of our unique body.
In other words, we are taking his work of art and deciding it is not perfect. In order to perfect it in a manner that please society and so pleases our sinful nature, we vandalize it, we impair it, we disfigure it. We begin the fast with the hopes that the end result will not be a closer relationship with God but a thinner view of ourselves in the mirror.
Now, Jesus says in Matthew 6:16-18, “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
Just to be clear on that reward, it was all the attention they got for looking so morally superior by showing they fasted. It was a false attention that came from a false sense of self on the Pharisees part. A sense that looking like you are on point is the same as actually being on point. These dudes truly did believe they were on point. They believed so hard that they lost the point completely. ( I know I am not alone in being able to relate to that one. LOL).
Jesus goes on to say, ” But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.”
In other words, don’t walk around being obvious about your fast. Keep yourself humble.
The power of the fast comes not from pushing what you are doing in everybody’s face but from keeping it hidden so that it is a secret between just you and your creator.
This is so important because, aside from the lack of humility and pride that comes with being an open book on your moral high-horse to health, you are also inviting the flawed opinions of flawed people. You are opening yourself up to judgement and foolish wisdom from those who have zero place in your personal worship with God.
And fasting is as personal a worship as you can get with the Lord.
God speaks to us in the secret places. He is not a boaster or a bragger. His modus operandi is all about quality private time in prayer with you. This is what your fasting is meant to reflect.
If you allow others to chime in on your fast, to give thoughts and opinions, you disrupt the spiritual flow of God’s voice to your soul. You crowd out his crowning glory with your own, which of course, is no more than a mere shadow.
In order to be able to fast in a manner that pleases God, there can not be even a drop of hope that the fast will bring upon weight loss. Not only is that a trigger to head back into the realm of dieting and the restrictive mentality that comes with it, it is also not meant to be a part of why you are fasting in the first place.
The fast must come from a deep place of worship for the Father and not for the self.