Last blog I talked about sandwiches in Matthew. Points A and C seem to be related but Point B does not unless you look closely. For some time I have been covering the Lord’s Prayer but before that I covered the part of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount that was about giving in secret so that your Father in heaven will reward you in secret.
What happens here after Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer is about fasting in secret with the likewise same reward.
“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).
I tend to get curious through my lens as a linear thinking European American on why Jesus would not repeat the pattern one after another rather than an interuption on how to pray. What could be the method to either Jesus’ speaking style or the editorial pacing of Matthew the author?
Well one thing that is covered in the Lord’s Prayer is the issue of sustenance regarding “daily bread”. If one sees daily bread coming first from God, it changes the scenario on how we fast because we acknowledge God as the center of our provision.
Another benefit to having the Lord’s Prayer introduced to the reader before this fasting in secret reference is that the body is more tied to worship. Jesus prays “..who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name”.
Another aspect is God calling disciples to exercise a spiritual discipline with the following paradox: look good while mortifying the flesh. The call of the disciple was described in the words of John the Baptist well as “He must increase and I must decrease”. By fasting one is sending a signal to God and their own soul a dependence on God in our most basic carnal need. We can appreciate this through the help of Paul who wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
Speaking of basic, one can draw a spiritual lesson from Abraham Maselow. From his hierearchy of needs we see how hard it is to have a sense of belonging if our basic needs (food, water, shelter) are not met. Spiritualiy we can take a sort of old fashioned snap shot and see through a negative image that by denying ones self in taking the Lordship of God personally our sense of belonging to all that matters really increases. Through the mindset that Jesus is teaching smacks against any carnal desire to have congradulations from men on your spiritualness. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Admiration from people is fine if it happens by happenstance. But to make the spiritual practice about the people’s power to define you is socially based idolatry. It is a sin and Jesus lays down a standard that is not to be dismiised by the Pharasees of the day. Since Jesus is the same always, such humility on the practice of fasting stands for us still.
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). First God’s favor and then man. The call for us as we ponder this passage in our hearts is checking our motivations. What is stopping us?