16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. – Matthew 6:16-18
Do good deeds discretely and not to be seen. Pray to the Father in secret and not to be seen. Fast in secret and not to be seen. These are all ideas that Jesus teaches us.
The takeaway from all of these is the same: do we want to do what is righteous so that we can be seen as righteous. Or do we do what is righteous for a love of what is righteous, and more importantly, a love for God? Jesus knows our motives and He rewards us accordingly.
Maybe we have mixed motives. For some, a desire to be pleasing to others is a sincere struggle. This seems to be especially true for people who lived their lives without getting much love, particularly within the most fundamental relationships such as parental and other familial relationships.
This can also be true for people who lack confidence, so they might look to others who they view as more competent for validation of their good works. This does not apply to fasting per-se, but to other things one might do openly in service to the Lord or in Christian living in general.
As with all troubles we might face, Jesus is merciful to us when we are honest with Him and He will patiently work out the kinks in our character so that we can serve Him more faithfully and more purely.
However, there are some who do not have good motives in their service, good deeds, or outward religious actions like prayer or fasting. Their purpose is to gain praise from others, usually as a way to gain favor of those who they think will boost their social or financial status or those who they want to exert power and control over. There is no real love for the Lord in them because playing Christian is just something they do to serve themselves.
I think most of us fall someplace in the middle of the extremes of absolute purity and faithfulness and absolute self-gratification. We should strive to do all things out of a pure heart, because as Jesus also said, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The thing is, we need the grace of God towards us to create in us a pure heart, and He will if we seek Him for this. It is good to evaluate our motivations. We might not always like what we see, but we know that the love of Jesus towards us is greater than our fears of rejection because of some difficulty or misguided ambition we might hold.
If we remain in the truth and sincerely believe that the ways of Jesus are righteous and if we sincerely want to see our nature conformed to these ways, then we can have full confidence that His mercy is for us, and overtime, we will see the changes He makes in us that helps us to do all things in a manner that is more pleasing to Him.
Jesus once said, “He that sent me is with me. The Father has not left me alone for I do always those things that please him.” How wonderful it would be to have that confidence! We can grow in that confidence.
Here is an excerpt from 2 Peter that demonstrates this idea:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The more we add the things of Jesus to our faith and the more we see Him working in us so that we can “do always those things that please Him,” the more confidence we can have in our election and salvation.
Therefore, these are good things for us to be mindful of. Whatever issues of the heart we might have, if a sincere love for Jesus is present also, He will sort us out and set us right according to the grace we received and His purposes for us.
This post went a little sideways. I have been putting this article off because I did not know what to add to the idea given in the scripture above because it seemed so straight forward. So, I just did like I tend to do and I wrote off-the-cuff. This are my organic thoughts, hopefully led of the Spirit, and hopefully useful.
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series.
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