“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.” (Matthew 6:16-18; The Message)
One of the challenges of Lent is that we do it together. It is a public fast.
Does this defy what Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount? Does this render it inappropriate? Not at all. In fact, God expected Israel to practice corporate fasting at times; especially during times of national grief or repentance (see Esther 4:3).
Not all fasting must be done secretly. A deeper principle is at play in the words of Jesus.
Fasting is fundamentally between us and God. We do not fast to impress each other, but to seek Him. Sometimes we do that together. But it is never a badge of honor but an expression of spiritual need. Fasting is not a way to “belong” to the group. Nor should it mark out the “truly committed” from the “half-hearted.”
Indeed, if we allow our fasting to draw attention to ourselves or divide us, we diminish its significance and potential.
Today, let’s brush our teeth, wash our faces, and face the world with a smile, knowing that while we share this Lenten journey with millions of other believers, it is ultimately a journey just with Jesus.
Lord Jesus, guard my heart from pride. Keep me focused on You as the reason for my fast, the goal of my fast, and the chief audience of my fast. May this day of our Lenten Journey bring You great joy. Amen.