Finding Your Heart (Matthew 6:21)

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The phrase “Skin in the game” is a term coined by renowned investor and   billionaire Warren Buffet. It refers to the idea of management demonstrating confidence in the company they are running by using their own money to buy and hold its stock. The thinking is that corporations are better managed by those who share ownership. After all, it is common sense to protect and bless that which you own and value. Jesus knew that. In fact, He articulated that principle thousands of years before Warren Buffet put it into the modern business vocabulary. In the middle of His Sermon on the Mount He makes the profound observation, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Jesus is imparting to us a simple equation: Value multiplied by ownership equals the level of heart engagement. 

It is a simple equation with complicated outcomes, because heart engagement forms the worldview of the individual. Our worldview is the basis upon which we make every one of our decisions. If your worldview is that X is most valuable (and that all should therefore be done to protect X), but reality is that X is not actually that valuable, you will innately make wrong decisions. This is what Jesus is warning us about. Placing too much emphasis on the temporary is eternally damaging. As Rev. Don Oslen used to preach, “Never sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the temporary!” 

The great commentator Matthew Henry once wrote, “We are therefore concerned to be right and wise in the choice of our treasure, because the temper of our minds, and consequently the tenor of our lives, will be accordingly either carnal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly. The heart follows the treasure, as the needle follows the loadstone, or the sunflower the sun.” Another commentator writes, “What really makes a treasure valuable is the affection of the heart. He whose treasures are on earth has his heart anchored to the earth; he whose treasures are in heaven has his heart anchored there. The earth and all its treasures must pass away; what, then, about the heart that loses all its treasures? Heaven alone abides forever; the heart whose treasures are there will never lose them.”

This is truth: The economy of God is not built on gold or silver. In God’s kingdom, gold will be used as a paving material, and silver will be as common as stones. Rather, the economy of God is built on gift and sacrifice. To have ‘skin in the game’ in heaven is to engage in gift and sacrifice now, so as to place treasure in heaven. There it will be kept for us – uncorrupted and free of danger of theft. And at the same time, here and now we will be both freer and less encumbered and at the same time, others will be encouraged and given hope. Amen.

Our decision about which bank we store our wealth in is a spiritual phenomenon! It is a piece of spiritual litmus paper, or to use another image, a spiritual thermometer. It tests the reality of our faith and indicates our spiritual health.

 Francis A. Schaeffer

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Look most carefully. Where is your heart?

Protecting It (Matthew 6:19-20)

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People accumulate wealth for all manner of reasons. Having a thick bank   account and much financially invested gives one a sense of security. It allows a level of freedom from the tyranny of chronic financial urgency. It permits a certain level of freedom from slavery to the clock. You become free to do as you wish and go where you wish. But it also has a darker side. It grants opportunity to be seen as somehow more important than the rest of humanity, appealing to a sinful sense of pride. It affords that you gain at least temporary control of resources that the desperate among us truly need, which appeals to a wicked sense of power. Having much can put you in a position of needing great discernment at the very time your sense of discernment is impaired by the natural human inclination toward greed. Yet even if we do have and exercise discernment with wealth, there is still the constant corrosion of daily life expenses and the ever present need to guard against outright theft. 

When we want to keep a treasure safe from loss here in our fallen world, we put in a steel box called a “safe”. To give extra protection (and ensure the safe itself is not stolen) we put our treasure in a safe inside a vault in a bank. That’s called a “safety deposit box”. Although there have been thefts from safety deposit boxes, generally they are regarded as the safest place we can put something. Of course, such a privilege does have a cost. Safety deposit boxes are not free! The corrosion of annual cost slowly grinds down the treasure within.

Although there is no way to hoard God’s blessing without negative consequence on earth, there is a way to store up blessing in a godly way. Jesus explains, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus is telling us there is a place where blessing can be stored with only positive outcomes! Where it is not corroded by expenses and taxes and subject to imminent theft. It is a place where we can store up good things without fear of loss. Luke wrote a more detailed account of Jesus teaching on this subject. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

Jesus equates giving to the poor to storing up treasure in heaven. Exactly how that works is not given to us, but it is obvious that God sees all that we do for those He made in His image, and we know that He is no man’s debtor. Moreover, 1Peter 1:4 tells us that God keeps something else aside for us in heaven, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” To give to the poor is to add to that inheritance. 

Safety deposit boxes are not unlimited in size, nor do they come with a treasure already inside them. Yet our heavenly safety deposit box has all those benefits and more. The student of Scripture can be confident that it is folly to store up treasure on earth, but it is most wise to store up treasure in heaven!

A man who is perfect before the Lord lays out his substance for God’s cause, depend on that. He does not merely attend conferences, and talk of good things, of spirituality of mind, and sanctification by faith, and all those glittering subjects; but he lives for Jesus in some practical work, and gives himself up, and his substance too, for the honour of the Redeemer’s name and the diffusion of the glorious gospel.

Charles Spurgeon

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What have you stored up in heaven? How are you adding to your eternal inheritance?

The Injustice of It All (Matthew 6:19)

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The Lord once sent the prophet Nathan to King David, telling him a story about a rich   man who had much, and a poor man who little; “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. […] Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!”  

Nathan’s point was to show David the error of his way. It is a grave injustice for the rich to take what they need from the poor so they can keep what they have for themselves.  David’s visceral response is common to all who innately understand the idea of fairness. Yet all who know the full story of 2Sam 12 know just how ironic David’s response was, and how what he said to Nathan would immediately come back to bite him. For the Bible reader has already been informed by the prior chapter, “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.” That was probably an understatement. David’s sin was not unlike sticking his finger in God’s eye, and yet ironically it was only David who was blind to his personal folly. 

What then of us? Surely God Himself has at least as strong a reaction to injustice as David did. Certainly God knows that all around us are the very poor. What does God know about us that we don’t recognize, or that we won’t recognize? Are we just as blind to what we are doing as David was to what he had done?

In Deuteronomy 15, the Lord warned us that hard-heartedness toward the needy is not mere folly. It is sin. “Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” 

God expects us to care for the less fortunate. He expects us to care enough to do something about their lack. It is not an understatement to say that the reason He gives wealth to us to start with is that we might share it with the less fortunate so that we might exercise His character of compassion, generosity and mercy. That we might see others through His eyes. That they might know that God (through those made in His image) has not forgotten them. That both they and us would build relationships that honor Him. But none of that happens if we just put the wealth and gifts God gives us on a shelf.  To that point Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

God doesn’t just see what we do with our wealth – He also knows what will happen to it as a result of our choices. Therefore, to accumulate treasure just for the sake of storing it up is not unwitting misuse or simple ignorance. It is taking the blessing God gave you (not just for yourself, but that you might honour His Name by blessing others), and feeding it to moths and giving it to thieves. That is not just simple foolishness. It is a great affront to the One who gave that treasure to you, for you are deliberately setting aside His purposes for your own. What then will be your reward? Surely there will be none. Only wrath. 

The end of each life and the final judgment show that the person and the possessions are not durable. Trusting in wealth because it supposedly “retains its value” is trusting in a charade.

Kurt A. Richardson

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Thank God for His grace to you, that you might both receive and give to Him, and that you might both receive and give to others.

Accumulation (Matthew 6:19)

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In our day, much has been made of the 1%. Every society looks on with   longing and no small amount of distrust at those who annually take more in than 99% of the rest of the nation. That distrust is driven largely by jealousy. The 1% take exotic vacations the rest can only dream of. They own large homes, wonderful properties and luxurious cars the rest of society wants but cannot afford. But the 1% has its own problem; The 0.1%. The 0.1% are those who fly to and fro in private helicopters, who control enormous companies and who have wildly out of proportion influence in political decisions. The 1% look at the 0.1% the same way the 99% look at the 1%. We might conclude that such is only just desserts. Yet, if we speak globally instead of nationally, most westerners are already in the top 1% income bracket, because half the world lives on less than 3$/day. So, the problem is not where you are on the wealth scale, but how you think about money that gives you peace about it or not, and it is how you use your money that causes the rest of society to trust you with it or not. 

Jesus has been teaching about hypocrisy. He has taught us about the hypocrisy of giving to impress others, of praying to impress others, of fasting to impress others. “Hypocrisy deceives others, yet it deceives the person guilty of it most of all. From the deception of others Jesus now turns to the deception of self; and the example he uses is the seeking of perishable treasures instead of the imperishable.” To this point Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”  

The issue at hand is not so much that you have stored up a sum of money. The wise save for future needs. The wisest man who ever lived encouraged us to be likewise diligent, saying, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Gathering in the harvest so you won’t starve when no harvest is to be had is expected, necessary and wise, so do not think that Jesus is speaking against common sense. Rather, He is speaking against treasuring treasure for treasure’s sake

Treasure is meant to be used for blessing, not for hoarding. When it is used to bless it is helpful. But when it is hoarded it is not helpful, for it no longer is traded for goods and services you need or even goods and services you want. It therefore does nothing for you or for those you love. It does not even provide employment for others. Especially not when it is hoarded beyond all need, and most especially not when it is hoarded to the great grief of others who have much need and have no means at all. 

Besides which, even the most common of folks can recognize that earthly treasure does not last. Over time corrosion and natural forces degrade property, and the stored coin and jewels they cannot degrade the thief can steal. Being fixated on treasure can therefore never produce enjoyment of life. In fact it only ensures paranoia. The questions become not what to do with it, but, “What if you loose some of it?” and “What if you loose all of it?” We find that what was once sought for enjoyment becomes the very thing that throttles our enjoyment. Yet that too is not a newly found fact. people throughout time have found that amassing wealth on earth did nothing for their happiness, peace or true enjoyment of life. It only give more options on how to use your time. As the pagan philosopher Plutarch wisely said, “The right use of wealth is a fairer trait than excellence in arms; but not to need wealth is loftier than to use it.”

The modern reader of Scripture knows this. We are not blessed so we can accumulate to our own hurt. But what we know that Plutarch never realized is that we are blessed that we might be a blessing! Amen.

It is our duty to make the best use of every part of our possession that is possible in our circumstances. If there was any way within our reach in which our money might have produced more good and more honor to God when we spent it in something innocent, but less beneficial to his service, we have come short of our duty. We have sinned.

Robert Dabney

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How are you honouring God with some of your wealth? How are you honouring God with the rest of it?

Quietly (Matthew 6:17-18)

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Jesus has instructed His followers about giving, prayer and fasting. These three  spiritual  disciplines have some common elements, which Jesus has highlighted in His teaching: 

About giving, He said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Commentator John Nolland wrote, “The point about the left hand not knowing could be that such a tight circle of privacy would eliminate the possibility of building up one’s own image even in one’s own eyes (in the imagery left and right hands, in practical activity, are very close together—much closer to each other than to the head or eyes). The alternative is that such a restriction of knowledge would certainly eliminate any possibility of public acclaim.

About prayer, He said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Warren Wiersbe said of that, “The first step toward overcoming hypocrisy is to be honest with God in our secret life. We must never pray anything that we do not mean from the heart; otherwise, our prayers are simply empty words. Our motive must be to please God alone, no matter what men may say or do. We must cultivate the heart in the secret place. It has well been said, “The most important part of a Christian’s life is the part that only God sees.

About fasting, He said, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.” LeRoy Lawson wrote, “To exercise the discipline properly requires neither sackcloth and ashes nor hunger pains and dry tongue. Rather, a conscious and conscientious denial of self for the sake of another is what constitutes fasting. It is identifying with the miserable, the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked.

This common theme tells us that Jesus wanted His followers to practice their spiritual disciplines without drawing attention to themselves. In fact, He expected them to take steps to ensure that what they do does not become public. Their motive must be pure. All of the focus driving their activity is to be on one’s own relationship with God, and not any of it is to be on self-glorification. Only God has the right to glorify Himself, for only God is God. His people must therefore be about glorifying Him, not themselves. As God is unseen (yet sees all), it serves best that the believer who wants to commune with Him act as He does: That we bless Him in giving while unseen. That we speak to Him in confidence while unseen. And that we beseech Him for His best for others, likewise unseen.

If we be sincere in our solemn fasts, and humble, and trust God’s omniscience for our witness, and his goodness for our reward, we shall find, both that he did see in secret, and will reward openly. Religious fasts, if rightly kept, will shortly be recompensed with an everlasting feast.

Matthew Henry

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Meditate on Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Thank God that He sees all you do for Him and His Kingdom.

Keeping It Real (Matthew 6:17-18)

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Fasting usually results in God’s gracious response. But not always. Isaiah 58   relates the Lord’s frustration with Jewish religious leadership. “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” 

The reader of Scripture can perceive that the Jewish leadership had been going through the motions of repentance without actually being repentant. Isaiah’s point to them is clear. Fasting is useless if it is not a heartfelt attempt to humble oneself before God. Merely abstaining from food will never gain God’s approval. Even if it is accompanied by sackcloth and ashes. It is impossible to try to “empty oneself” apart from actual repentance. It just cannot be done in God’s sight. Fasting just for the sake of abstaining from food is its own reward – it gives the body time to cleanse and heal. So do not expect an additional spiritual reward if there is no spiritual effort accompanying it. Rather, the Lord tells us it is better that we be concerned with the physical well being of others than to lay around in sackcloth and ashes. 

The whole point of fasting is to break bonds. Breaking the bond that food has on your own body is just an outward manifestation of the reality of breaking the spiritual bonds holding down others. It is an act of humility, because the one suffers for and on account of the other. Fasting is a weapon of spiritual warfare. It has the power to loose chains, untie cords, to set people free and to break yokes of slavery to ungodliness. But only if and when the practitioner has first emptied themselves in humility (ensuring their voice is clear and loud in God’s ears) and is seeking what God wants (ensuring His voice is clear and loud in their ears), not their own desire. 

What God wants is clear from Scripture. He wants His Kingdom (including the freedom of His people) and His rule (including the destruction of that which is opposed to Him) and His glory (including the praise His people give Him for freeing them and destroying what held them in bondage). What God does not want is attention and glory for the impure. To this point Jesus instructs, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.”  In saying that, recognize that the Lord is not prescribing hypocrisy. Quite the opposite. Repentance must be a matter of the heart that results in outward action, not outward action alone.

Great prophets such as Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea came to the people to remind them that God demands genuine, godly sorrow that comes from the heart. The bottom line was this: the people were called to rend their hearts, not their garments. When the prophets exhorted the people in this way, they weren’t opposing the practice of the rending of garments, but were saying that it’s not enough to tear your clothes as a sign of repentance; the heart must be torn as well. When we realize that we have offended God, we must feel this rupture of our soul.

R.C. Sproul

APPLICATION: Intentionality

The next time you fast, keep it between you and the Lord.

Intentional Hypocrisy (Matthew 6:16)

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Throughout the Bible, fasting and prayer seems to have a special place in finding positive  responses  from the Lord. That doesn’t mean we can manipulate God, obviously – He is God after all, and we are not. But unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from trying to manipulate others around the subject.

Fasting any period of time creates discomfort. If you fast severely (no water and no food) you become dehydrated. That starts to show up in how you look. Fasting longer will result in loosing weight. Eventually it becomes quite noticeable to those in your circles that something is happening to you. If they connect that you are fasting with how you look, it can appear that you are taking your relationship with God most seriously. Sadly, some people are more interested in making sure others notice piety than in actually being pious. That’s nothing new. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible notes, “In general, in the OT, fasting was abused. Instead of a sincere act of self-renunciation and submission to God, fasting became externalized as an empty ritual in which a pretense of piety was presented as a public image.”  For this reason Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”

In our culture, it is almost laughable that someone would go so far as to disfigure their face to try to demonstrate that they are fasting. Yet Jesus’ admonition has a real application to us too. Deliberately casting a wrong impression so that others think more of you is actually more prevalent in our modern culture, not less. It is actually expected that we present a good image to all around us, and the fashion, hair dye and makeup industries attest to that. It is not uncommon to only post pictures that demonstrate your ‘good side’.  It is not uncommon to exaggerate the time spent at the gym or in study or in work. And one has only to  think of the many examples of influencers on Instagram who have been caught filtering their pictures to deliberately give a very wrong impression. In a world full of cameras, such immature foolishness is bound to be noticed. That is bad, but the foolishness of misleading others by appearing to please God is much worse, and only equaled by God’s ironic response to it. Christ notes, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” In other words; instead of receiving praise from God for having sought Him, the deceiver’s only praise is their own self-satisfaction at having appeared to have done so – something they themselves know is just a foolhardy fabrication. 

Yet it is worse than that. The one who lies about their appearance or their labour is being dishonest to men before God about that which matters for little. But the one who lies about their devotional/prayer life is being dishonest to God before men about that which matters much. 

Those who hypocritically mislead others into thinking they are pious when they are not succeed only in trading a most positive response from God Most High (which is worth much for eternity) for a fake knowing glance by other human beings (which is worth less than nothing for but a moment). It is like trading a bag of pure gold for a single fair token to a rigged game of chance – one that you rigged yourself to ensure all bets loose. That is not just foolish. It is downright stupid.

It is possible to state partial truth in such a way as virtually to lie, and to be silent when silence may be designed to convey a false impression. [But] wise reticence will always be consistent with truthfulness.

Henry D.M.S. Jones

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Are you honest when a brother or sister in Christ asks you about your prayer/devotional life? Are you honest with God about the state of your own soul?

Unusual (Matthew 6:16)

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There are certain times that come in most everyone’s life that call for  unusual measures. Days of grief and mourning that are so severe they do more than fill your time with preoccupation, they interrupt your function as a human being. Sleep flees from you. Meals are missed and meals are avoided. Not because you are not hungry and not because you do not need sustenance, but because now is not the time for food. It is a time for uninterrupted, focused and constant prayer. 

David had a time like that in his life. His new wife had recently given birth, but the child had fallen gravely ill. 2Sam 12 records, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.”  Of course, if you know the whole story, you know that David was fully responsible for what was happening. He had conceived the child while Bathsheba was married to another man, and then he had ensured that her husband would be killed in battle. 

God had seen what David did and so purposed to humble him severely. To that point He sent Nathan the prophet, who accused David to his face and prophesied that the child would die. Then, “the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.”  David, aware of his part in what was now happening, was struck to the core with remorse and sought God’s face for forgiveness through prayer and fasting. 

Nevertheless, it is not a small thing to commit so grievous a sin when you are the leader of many. The child still died as prophesied. Solomon’s blood brother never saw his first birthday. There were other consequences too. David’s family became horribly dysfunctional. There was civil war for years. The sword never left Israel during his tenure as King. Many people died. Yet amazingly and through it all, God forgave David. David didn’t lose the throne or his relationship with God. Instead of becoming a footnote in history or an example of failure, David was enabled to persevere. Ultimately, he became the epitome of Israel’s success. But surely if David had not humbled himself before God at that critical time, the outcome would’ve been quite different. 

Thankfully, David knew there is something about ‘making oneself empty’ that is appropriate to repentance. Not only that, it helps one focus on God our Father – which is always helpful. Fasting is therefore not only a way for us to grieve over sin and brokenness (ours or others), it is a way to enter into God’s grief. Doing so draws His attention in a very positive way.

Grief and hardship are not always the result of our own foolishness. But whether they are inflicted upon us or not, fasting (with prayer) is always an appropriate response. 


The Scripture says that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor 5:21) If the sinless Son of God could ‘take on’ our sin for us, surely we as His followers can ‘take on’ an act of repentance for those around us. Indeed, this is part of our calling. For we have been given a ministry of reconciliation that we might help bring the lost back into relationship with God Most High.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Have you ever fasted for the benefit of someone else? What happened when you did?

Going Hungry (Matthew 6:16)

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Moses was commanded of God regarding the Day of Atonement, “On the  tenth day of  this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work.” The Day of Atonement was a special gathering, where the Israelites acknowledged that they as a people group had sinned, and where they sought forgiveness for that sin through an offering. It was a very serious observance, as the Lord instructed in Leviticus 23, “Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”  

The Hebrew wording transliterated “deny yourselves” literally means to become empty. It means to fast. The ideas of both humility and hunger are called to mind. Simply put, fasting is abstaining from something (usually food) for a period of time in order to focus on spiritual matters (primarily prayer). Fasting is meant to accomplish two things – to humble ourselves before God, and to sharpen our focus on Him. It is a powerful spiritual discipline, and it always is used in conjunction with prayer. Although Scripture demonstrates prayer as often done apart from fasting, it never demonstrates fasting apart from prayer.

Though the observance of Lent is encouraging a resurgence of the practice, fasting may still be described as among the least practiced spiritual disciplines in all of western Christianity. But Jesus expected His disciples to use that discipline, and in conjunction with prayer. To that point, having just finished teaching His disciples how to pray, Jesus turns His attention to fasting. He begins, “When you fast…” 

That Jesus used the Greek word transliterated <hotan> (meaning “when”) instead of a word meaning “if” tells us that Jesus had that expectation of His listeners. And although other fasts in addition to the Day of Atonement came to be regularly observed (see Zechariah 8:19), fasts were not normal behaviour. They still are not. To that point, fasting is understood as a spiritual discipline that is expected, but not regular. It is a holy observance – a special thing to be used on occasion

That is because it marks an unusual appeal to God, above and beyond our normal, day-to-day prayer. But just because it is not a normal part of everyday life doesn’t allow that we can forgo it altogether. There are times of special consecration (like the day of Atonement) and times of special appeal to God on account of national or private tragedy. These times call God’s people to seek Him in an unusual way, proportional to the event at hand. Simply put, they call for fasting. 

Fasting provides an environment for tuning our lives to God. It is not that the Lord speaks louder when we fast, but that our spiritual ‘receptors’ are able to receive what He is saying to us. It is perhaps one of the deepest expressions of dying to self and of surrender to Him. We are better able to hear what God is saying.

Julio Ruibal

APPLICATION: Intentionality

When did you last fast? What did God say to you during that time?