“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.”
We now come to the third example of pseudo-righteousness—phony fasting.
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites,
Pharisees fasted to impress people. They fasted two times a week (Lu 18:12). Fasting had to do with denying self, but the Pharisees glorified self.
with a sad countenance.
The word “sad” carries the idea of dreary. This is an appearance of settled grief as well as affected sullenness.
For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.
These people conceal their true attitude by disfiguring their faces. The idea is of outward appearance of humility accompanying fasting.
Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
The Pharisees received their full reward with their phony fasting. Their reward was to be seen of men.
The “you” here is emphatic. There is strong contrast to the followers of Christ who operate on reality rather than appearance.
when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
Genuine believers appear normal physically. They do not change their outward appearance to impress others.
so that you do not appear to men to be fasting,
Appearance has to do with reputation, not character.
but to your Father who is in the secret place;
The Father is the only one we need to impress. Fasting is an issue simply between the believer and God.
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
True fasting is between God and the believer done in secret. Our only motive should be to please God.
Hypocrisy preempts genuine relationship to God.
Jesus fasted (Mt 4:3) and the early church fasted (Ac 13:2). The purpose of fasting is to wholly concentrate on God. There is no intrinsic value to fasting. The idea is to give maximum time to God. In order to do so, this person would not prepare or eat food.
Hypocrisy places priority on reputation rather than character. Phony religion of appearance will strip us of reward in eternity. Some movements in evangelical Christianity place great emphasis on reputation and appearance rather than on the authenticity of Christianity. Everything is about giving an impression rather than about the gospel itself. The motivation behind these movements appears to be the desire to impress those without Christ by image rather than reality. This approach has lost confidence in the power of the gospel and puts trust in the machinations of men.