Give Me That Mountain

All for the Sake of Appearances

Faith and Unbelief. Day seventy...

In Shakespeare's play, “Hamlet,” Queen Gertrude makes the comment, “The lady protests too much, methinks.” This famous line has become a modern‐day response to those who make such a big deal out of something that their big deal comes off as suspicious, at best.

People frequently have religious practices that come off as suspicious. And the fast is certainly one of them.

queen gertrude and hamlet

Beware of anyone who wants to let you know, by the look on his or her face, that he or she is fasting. Jesus warns against this behavior.

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16‐18 NKJV)

So many of our religious traditions are for the sake of appearances—meant to elevate us in the eyes of others rather than to elevate God in our own eyes.

But if, for example, we fast to impress other people with our spirituality, whatever applause we get from them is the only benefit we will see. We will certainly have no meaningful exchange with God.

Fasting to impress others is on the same level as praying to impress others—which Jesus also warns against.

When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5‐6 NLT)

Fasting is a private matter between you and God.

No one else needs to know, and no one else is supposed to know.

Please note: I'm not suggesting that a pastor or other spiritual leader can't call a group of people to a fast. But I am suggesting that if you want others to know you're fasting, you may be going hungry for no good reason—which brings us to another question.

How does God reward us openly?

Be cautious about becoming too interested in the answer to that question. When we become more interested in the take‐away from an encounter with God than we are in the encounter itself, we have missed the point.

Any of the things we do as Christians:

  • Study the Bible
  • Pray
  • Fast
  • Take communion
  • Worship
  • Serve others
  • Tithe
  • Give offerings

This is not an exhaustive list, but any of these activities has the potential to be done to promote ourselves rather than to promote God. And nothing done for self‐promotion ever ends well.

God is bigger and better than you think. And the more you realize this truth, the easier it becomes to promote Him rather than yourself.

Have a good day,
Mike

Image credit: Jeremy Sabol

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