“16 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)”
In elementary school one of the trick questions was to ask if God could create a rock too big for him to lift. If he couldn’t lift it or couldn’t create it, then he wasn’t God. When I took calculus in college, the word was “limits.” Numbers can be infinitely small and infinitely big. Now we use the word “boundaries.” People might talk about having the “DTR” talk, defining the relationship boundaries. Another way to put it, is knowing what is private and what is publicly appropriate.
God seems to be concerned about boundaries too. Today’s text that we are thinking about is the third time Jesus talks about making public that which is secret. He talked about publicly showing off donations that bring self fame v.s. giving in secret because God sees. He talked about publicly showing off in prayer, using big words and fancy phrases v.s. praying is secret because God hears. Today’s passage talks about the spiritual discipline of fasting. Again Jesus impresses on us the need to self reflect on whom we are trying to impress. Fasting to draw closer to God is between God and the person, not an opportunity to draw the attention of friends or the public. Jesus continues to point out that the God we are worshiping is not a dictator in the sky who eventually passes out rewards for good behavior but is a God who walks with us and partners with us and knows us…and cares!
Let’s make an acrostic of “secret” today and thank God for aspects of our personal relationship with him that are not up for public debate.
Thank you, Lord, for s______,
Thank you, Lord for e_______,
Thank you Lord, for c_________,
Thank you Lord, for r_________,
Thank you Lord, for e_______,
Thank you Lord for t_____________.