"Worshiping God involves more than observing an outward ritual;
there must be an inward obedience and submission to the Lord." -Warren Wiersbe
Do you know why most criminals get caught? It is because they can't keep their mouths shut. Sooner or later Bubba has to tell someone that he stole a pack of cigarettes from the gas station so he can feel tough and then…wammo…handcuffs baby. Most detective work is just waiting around for Mr. or Mrs. Criminal to tell someone with one more brain cell than them about the crime and then the cops go pick up the perp after who they told rats them out.
We may not all be criminals, but all of us on some level want people to know what we did.
I mean sit around a table at dinner with more than 3 people for 10 minutes and you'll find that to be true. One story leads to another story that leads to another better story that leads to an even better story that is only half true which leads to someone knowing someone which leads to your dad somehow having had dinner with Frank Sinatra.
We all want to feel important and to have people notice us.
That is the crux of what Jesus is talking about in this truth.
"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." – Matthew 6:16-18
Now fasting in its simplest sense is deprive yourself of something you want such as food or water for a period of time so in the moments of their desire you can refocus your attention to God. Fasts can last hours or days but the reason for them stays the same. It's about refocusing on God.
I've fasted in times of great stress or at a time when large decision was looming to truly seek God's direction and guidance. In all honesty though, I am a light weight when it comes to fasting and in fact one day is very hard for me, but the challenge is always a draw to me.
The difficulty with a fast, in most cases, is not about the food it's about the heart. When you are in the middle of fasting or even just starting out it is such a temptation to announce it to someone. To maybe subtly let it slide that it's the reason you can't each lunch or it is the reason you are so irritable. It would be such a great confidence boost if someone would say "wow, that's awesome!" or "I wish I was disciplined enough to do that." Those little boosts seem harmless, but what it may do to your spirit could be crushing. What Jesus wants us to do in our times of fasting is not seek the approval of others, but seek the face of God.
Jesus tells us that if our desire is for the approval of those around us, we have received our reward. However if we fast in worship to Christ and not reduce it to grimacing and moaning for sympathy we are told our reward is eternal. It simply takes us keeping our mouth shut and our soul open.
So the next time you are considering fasting, try not to fast like a criminal, but rather fast as a Christ follower should.