“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
Motives are a tough thing to judge. Motives originate inside the heart and mind and tend to become evident through actions. I think it is easy to get caught up in being quick to judge people’s motives. We all can have moments of confidence where we think we know why a person is wearing a certain outfit, or why a person is hanging out with that other person, or why they drive that kind of car. The reality is, that confidence that makes us think we know why somebody is doing a certain thing, is actually judging. This whole subject gets complicated in the sheer fact that Judging is preceded by motive. You cannot judge someone without first having a motive. Everything that you and I do is founded on motives. Some examples? A friend recently told me a story about a lady on an airline flight that he was also on. My friend, who is a great and dramatic story teller told the story like this. “The plane was about to pull back from the gate, when it was announced that there was a last minute passenger who needed to board the plane, and that there would be a few more minutes of delay. The passengers already on the plane, almost as if on cue, all moaned in unison. About 5 minutes later the late passenger boarded the plane.” My friend, telling the story, described the scene. “The lady came blasting down the isle, and her size made it difficult for her to fit down the isle, so as she passed by, everybody had to make a little extra room for her to get down the isle and to her seat. When she sat down she demanded rather loudly to the already seated flight attendants to get a seatbelt expander. It was obvious that she had been running, she was very sweaty and her hair was disheveled and it was clear that she was frustrated. When she finally sat down and the plane was able to taxi and take off, it only took about 2 minutes before this lady began to push her flight attendant button and ask for some water. The flight attendant got up from her seat and walked back to determine how she might be of assistance. When the lady requested some water, she was told no by the flight attendant because beverage service wouldn’t begin for another 20 minutes for all the passengers who would like to have a refreshment. The lady, who made the whole flight wait, got very upset and began to raise her voice about how she had to run to catch the plane and that if she didn’t get some water now, she might faint. The flight attendant turned around and walked to the back and with a voice that carried far enough for the back half of the plane to hear, said, ‘that overweight, demanding lady who made our whole flight take off late, just for her, is now demanding that she get something to drink before everybody else on the plane.’ The other flight attendant snickered, just loud enough, and said, some people have such nerve. The lady who requested the water heard the remarks and began to cry out loud. The flight attendant approached the lady with a glass of water and said, I hope you are satisfied. Maybe now we can take care of the others on the plane and not just serve your desires, I’m not sure what your problem is, but I think you are very demanding and rude. Why are you being so dramatic and selfish? The lady, who the whole plane was delayed for, replied I’m really sorry for my poor behavior, I just found out that my mother was in a very bad car accident and is in critical condition at the ICU and that I needed to hurry if I wanted to see her, because she might not make it through the day. I am so afraid I will not see her before she passes away.”
Motives Matter. I think this teaching of Jesus about fasting, is not so much about fasting as it is about motives.
If you reread Jesus teaching above, you will notice that He doesn’t say, ‘if you fast.” He says, “when you fast.” Jesus doesn’t really teach about fasting, how to fast, or what to fast from. He simply teaches about motives for fasting. As Jesus didn’t take the time in this passage to teach about fasting, I won’t either. I will simply say that fasting is sacrificially denying yourself anything for the purpose of showing God that whatever you are fasting from is not more important than He is. Fasting is also a way of showing the Lord how serious you are about whatever it is you are praying and fasting about.
It seems to me that Jesus is teaching about why we fast. He is teaching about fasting with false motives. He says in this passage that if we do anything on earth with the motive of seeking an earthly reward, that it would be the only reward we get. He doesn’t say that we will not be rewarded. I think He is saying that if we seek an earthly reward it will be a good one, but at the cost of a greater reward.
My motive determines my reward.
If I live for this world, then I will receive earthly rewards. This is a good thing.
If I live in this world, with motives that seek an eternal reward at the cost of an earthly reward, then I held out for the greater reward.
Which reward do you desire more.
If you want your reward RIGHT NOW…then you can get it.
If you want your reward to come from God and be eternally focused…you can get that too.
I think that those who are only living for this world…well…this world is as close as close to Heaven as they will get.
I think that those who are bringing the elements of Heaven to earth, and living with Heaven in mind…this world is as close to hell as they will ever get.
Is it just me, or is Jesus saying that if we do anything on earth with a motive of getting the reward now, then that is the only reward we will get pertaining to that action? I think so. Again…this is not a bad thing. Its a good thing at the cost of a greater thing.
Delayed gratification is a hard thing. It takes patience and endurance. Jesus says in other teachings of His that we should store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. What does that mean? It seems to mean that there is a reward system in eternity. How we live now determines what kind of rewards we get in Heaven. Heaven’s focus is the only time where we actually hear Jesus say to store up for yourself.
Why you live, why you work, and why you play, matters. Test your motives. It has eternal ramifications.
Why do you wear what your wearing right now?
Why did you get that body augmentation?
Why did you sign up to serve as a volunteer?
Why did you give money to that homeless person?
Why did you purchase the specific vehicle you drive?
Why do own the home you have and decorate it the way you do?
Why do you do what you do spiritually?
Are you doing any action today that if you tested your motives you would have to admit that you are doing it to get attention?
Its not wrong to do things for attention(earthly reward), it will just be done at the cost of receiving an eternal, God given reward for it.
I want to challenge you to do good in a stealth way! Do your acts of kindness secretly. When you do this…you will find great joy and you will receive rewards from the Lord!
I want to challenge you to take Jesus up on his teaching. When you fast, don’t let anybody know. Then your reward will be all the greater.
There is no greater reward than being blessed by the Creator of the sun, moon and stars! His rewards are eternal. His rewards are things that can never be taken away.
What’s your motive?