Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT)
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
In the time of Lent we often give up something, or fast, so we can take time to reflect on our lives. Our hope is that in giving up something it will help us focus on our lives and our relationship with God. It could be an actual fast from food, or a meal, and it could be giving up a block of time that we replace with a study of God’s word and prayer. The purpose of Lent is consistent regardless of the path we take to get there.
Jesus reminds us from this excerpt from the sermon on the mount that while a fast is a physical act of some type the relationship we seek to improve is of the heart. It is no different from our path to salvation as Christians. We hear God’s word in a physical manner but our decision for him takes place in our hearts and spirits before we make a public confession followed by baptism. It is not important that others know when and how we worship God as long as our worship is in truth then God who knows all things will provide for us in every need that we have in life. The example Jesus gives here of a hypocrite is to make a physical show off our efforts to please God. Jesus says we should go about our day to day lives looking normal and let our heart serve God’s spirit and His purpose for us. Once we are secure in our faith God will reward us by opening doors for others to clearly see our faith based on our actions, just not the actions we may have chosen. God’s reward like His plan of salvation will always improve and enrich our relationship with Him and with others if we are open by faith to His leading in our lives.