Daily D – Matthew 6:16-18
“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But then you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
MATTHEW 6:16-18 (CSB)
“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.” (The Message)
You get the idea from this chapter that true faith is not demonstrated by performance art. Big demonstrations of generosity do not really create much value. Over-praying leads to under-effectiveness. And here, being admired for fasting gets an eye-roll from God.
Religiosity is not true faith. Rigid rule-following is not true faith. Public attention-getting behavior is not true faith.
Our Father in heaven wants people who behave normally. He wants us to believe deeply, to give generously, to pray simply, and to hunger and thirst for him without dramatic enhancement.
Chuck Swindoll wrote a book years ago based on the Sermon on the Mount entitled, Simple Faith. That is a good title. It is also a good way to live. It is entirely possible to live what you say you believe without putting on a carefully branded Christian t-shirt or wristband.
Years ago, I attended a meeting with a group of church leaders who had invited a man who was going to talk to us about prayer. He spent thirty minutes talking about an experience he had where someone told him, “Just pray about it.” Something clicked for him that day. He came up with a marketing scheme for t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and all kinds of merchandise. He wanted us all to buy his stuff with Pray About It on it.
He had it all figured out. We could sell his stuff to our church members and other churches and we could keep part of the proceeds. Who wouldn’t want in on a deal like that?
When the meeting mercifully ended, the pastor in charge of the gathering looked at me and said, “I don’t think he knows anything about prayer.” If he did, he certainly didn’t have anything to say about it. He was much more interested in getting rich off of logo wear.
Simply give. Simply pray. Simply fast. Simply live. Christians do not have to be odd. Acting a little crazy is not the same thing as spiritual enhancement. It might get you on CNN, but it will not bless the heart of God.
I will live a less-eccentric faith.
Our Father, empower me to live what I say I believe simply and in the security that you see me, hear me, and lead me without any unnecessary drama or attention-seeking on my part. Deliver me from the unhealthy desire to be the center of attention. All the focus belongs on you. Amen.
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Jonah 4:2, 3 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
Joel 2:12, 13 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
Hosea 14:8, 9 “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.”