Matthew 6:16-18 FASTING
Jesus (on the Sermon of the Mount) continues his theme of teaching us to see the intent of the commandments and the theme of doing without expecting anything in return, not even recognition. He has already mentioned giving to the needy in 6:1-4 and private prayer in 6:5-8. The purpose of fasting is to turn yourself inward to focus on the Father in prayer, which is counteractive to be making it known. When one fasts, there is no outward appearance of hunger, so in order to have others know, one would have to make faces of discomfort or voice the same. Those who are fasting that make faces to get attention are hypocritical. Fasting teaches self-discipline and helps us appreciate God's gifts. The acting with faces of agony reminds me of small children who over-exaggerate in order to get a parent's attention. As a parent, it would make me smile because it was a bit cute to see the immaturity being displayed, but do what I could in action to discourage the behavior. It makes me wonder if the Father looks upon His children the same way.
In Old Testament times, the Jewish people were required once a year on the Day of Atonement to fast. Leviticus 23:32, "It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.” The Pharisees were voluntarily fasting twice a week to impress the people with their "holiness."
Ecclesiastes 9:8, "Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head." Pour oil on the head was an outward sign of joy, as well as washing the face and being well kept. Someone who is mourning and sad would let their outward appearance deteriorate, but someone who is happy takes the effort to clean up and feel good. The word "when" was used instead of "if." When one fasts, your outward appearance should be of joy and regular daily moods, not one of pretend sadness and depression in mourning.