When was the last time you fasted to be with the Lord? Honestly, it is not a process that many of us engage in these days, but Jesus spoke about it in a way that assumed it was a part of his hearers’ lives.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives his interpretations of the Law and tradition as any good religious scholar would have done. With fasting in particular, he is likely calling to the table those that want to seem holy or pious or (as we would say) spiritual in the eyes of those around them. He commands us to have the right motives behind our actions.
There are times when we are called to celebrate the things of God in community, even the Word was historically read aloud in groups—there is something very special about these gatherings. Community also has the power to bring encouragement, knowledge and accountability to those who call on the name of the Lord. Clearly, God wants us to do life together as we are pursuing Him. However, there are some things in our spiritual walk that require us to focus on our direct interaction with God rather than how it is seen in community.
The purpose of fasting is defeated in those that simply want the recognition for being holy. If you feel called to engage with God in this way—it can be a powerful experience. However, Jesus says to just do it, don’t make a big deal about it. This is time between you and Him. Enjoy it, even if it is a struggle in a time of struggle, God is with you.