Greetings all, here is your e-votional for the week…
‘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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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
Ok, so you may not be fasting this week, and you may not have fasted last week and, odds are, you aren’t fasting next week. So if that is true, how in the world can this passage from Matthew be relevant in your life? On the surface it likely isn’t, but what is it that Jesus is really trying to say? To interpret this as a passage about fasting would be to miss the point. Jesus is using the spiritual discipline of fasting as a carrier for a broader message. We don’t need to be showy in our faith.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I am a Presbyterian; showiness is the least of my problems.” We are the ‘frozen chosen’ after all. However, I do believe that sometimes our stoic approach to faith is used against us. We Presbyterians just don’t come across as enthusiastic or passionate about God. We don’t wave our arms in worship. We don’t shout praises to the Lord. We don’t wear those t-shirts that have co-opted a popular advertising slogan and made it into a Christian saying. That’s not our style. Because of this, people, and sometimes we ourselves, feel that maybe we are “doing it wrong.” We feel that perhaps our lack of enthusiasm testifies to a lack of faith. If you have ever felt this way, or had someone accuse you of lacking passion, then this passage from Matthew is for you!
Fasting was a pain. Literally. It hurt. People would fast for long periods. They would lose energy. Their skin would change colors as their body sought nutrients. The hypocrites, as Jesus called them, would make a big show of their discomfort so that everyone would know how faithful they were. This is what Jesus spoke against, making our faith intentionally showy. Is that to say that everyone that waves their arms in worship or shouts praises to God is a hypocrite? By no means. But neither do the lack of effusive gestures render us unfaithful. Instead, that lack of outward enthusiasm can be a symbol of the depth of our faith. We follow Jesus not because we want to prove something to somebody else, but because we love him. We worship as we do because it draws us closer to God, not because we are trying to embody a stereotype.
You don’t have to be showy in your faith to be faithful. So don’t worry if you do not sometimes feel as if you have enough passion. It’s not our job to look like a Christian, it is our job to be a Christian.
Prayer: Holy God, we pray that your Spirit would rest upon us this day, that our hearts would be drawn to you, and that we might feel your power in our lives. We thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, and we pray in his holy name. Amen.