A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church 25 Sept 2011
6:16 Now, whenever y’all fast, stop being like the gloomy-eyed hypocrites for they cover their faces
in order that they might be revealed to men as fasting.
I’m telling you truly, they are holding out on their reward.
6:17 But when you are fasting, anoint your head and wash your face,
6:18 so that you might not be revealed to men as fasting, but rather to your father who is in secret,
and your father who sees in secret will pay you back.
6:19 Don’t y’all keep treasuring for yourselves treasures upon the earth,
where moth and consumption are devaluing , and where thieves are breaking in and stealing
6:20 but keep treasuring for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor consumption are devaluing and where thieves neither break in nor steal,
6:21 for where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.
There is a legend of the Apostle Thomas, told by Mrs. Jameson in her book, Sacred and Legendary Art. “When St. Thomas was at Caesarea, our Lord appeared to him and said, 'The king of the Indies, Gondoforus, has sent his provost, Abanes, to seek for workmen well-versed in the science of architecture, who shall build for him a palace finer than that of the Emperor of Rome. Behold, now I will send you to him.' Thomas went, and Gondoforus commanded him to build for him a magnificent palace, and gave him much gold and silver for the purpose. The king went into a distant country and was absent for two years. St. Thomas, meanwhile instead of building the palace, distributed all the treasures among the poor and sick; and when the king returned he got more than a little upset. He commanded that St. Thomas be seized and cast into prison, and he meditated on how to give him a horrible death. About this time, the brother of the king died. Four days later, the dead body of the king’s brother had not been buried yet, but the dead man, suddenly awoke and sat up straight, and said to the king, 'The man whom you are planning to torture is a servant of God; behold, I have been in Paradise, and the angels showed to me a wondrous palace of gold and silver and precious stones; and they said, 'This is the palace that Thomas, the architect, has built for your brother, Gondoforus.' Now, when the king heard these words, he ran to the prison and freed the apostle! Thomas then said to him, 'Don’t you know that those who would possess heavenly things have little care for the things of this earth? There are in heaven rich palaces without number, which were prepared from the beginning of the world for those who would purchase the possession through faith and charity. Your riches, O king, may prepare the way for you to such a palace, but they cannot follow you there.'”
6:16 Now, whenever y’all fast, stop being like the sullen/sad/sourLuther/gloomy/somber-faced hypocrites, for they disfigure/neglectNAS/cover their faces in order that they might appearKJV/ be seenESV/ be noticedNAS/ showNIV/ be revealed to men as fasting. I’m telling you truly, they are holding out on their reward. 17But when you are fasting, anoint your head and wash your face, 18so that it might not be obviousNIV/you might not be revealed to men as fasting, but rather to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward/pay you back.
16‘Οταν δε νηστευητε μη γινεσθε ‘ως[περMaj] ‘οι ‘υποκριται σκυθρωποι αφανιζουσιν γαρ τα προσωπα αυτων ‘οπως φανωσιν τοις ανθρωποις νηστευοντες. Αμην λεγω υμιν [‘οτιMaj] απεχουσιν τον μισθον αυτων 17συ δε νηστευων αλειψαι σου την κεφαλην και το προσωπον σου νιψαι
18‘οπως μη φανης τοις ανθρωποις νηστευων, αλλα τω πατρι σου τω εν τω κρυφαιω, και ‘ο πατηρ σου ‘ο βλεπων εν τω κρυφαιωא,B,f1/κρυπτωMaj αποδωσει σοι.
s According to John Gill, the Greek word for “fast” is a combination of two words, the word for “not” and the word for “eat” so it means “not eat.”
s There was only one fast day commanded by God in the O.T. law, and that was on the day of Atonement, when God’s people were to confess their sins formally as a nation and seek God’s forgiveness in an annual ceremony (Lev. 16:29-34, 23:26-32, Num 29:7-11).
s However, there were many other occasions when God’s people fasted voluntarily:
s When God told the armies of Israel to wipe out the tribe of Benjamin, Israel convened for a day of fasting and worship before carrying out God’s judgment on that tribe (Judges 20:26).
s Later, after a disastrous battle with the Philistines and the capture of the ark of the covenant, the Philistines returned the ark and all the men of Israel gathered together for a day of fasting in which they repented from their idolatry and got right with God (1Sa 7:6).
s When Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, the soldiers that recovered their dead bodies and buried them mourned and fasted for 7 days, and later when David heard, he and his men mourned and fasted for a day. (1Sa 31:13 || 1Ch 10:12, 2Sa 1:12)
s David also fasted during a week-long vigil in hopes of reversing God’s sentence of death on the illegitimate child he had conceived with Bathsheba, a fast which he ended when the child died (2Sa 12:16-23).
s Similarly, King Ahab fasted after the prophet Elijah confronted him with “selling himself to do evil” and pronounced God’s judgment of his wife Jezebel being eaten by dogs and all his descendents being killed. God responded to Ahab’s humbling of himself by delaying the judgment he had pronounced (1Ki 21:27).
s The same sort of thing happened in Nineveh when Jonah prophesied its overthrow. The king and the people all fasted and humbled themselves before the Lord, and God responded by delaying the judgment for a generation (Jonah 3:5).
s King Jehosaphat of Judah also called for a fast when he heard of a multinational army coming at his country from the south. He assembled the people of Judah in Jerusalem to seek the Lord, and God told them that He would take care of things. Sure enough, when the Judean soldiers went out to the southern watchtower, they found that the foreign armies had killed each other off with infighting! (2Ch 20:3)
s Fasting also appears to be a regular discipline of the Psalmists when they were in trouble and praying for deliverance from God (Psalm 35:13; 69:10; 109:24).
s Now, there were bogus fasts, such as the one that Jezebel called to fool the people into approving of her murder of Naboth (1 Kings 20:9) and the fasts in Israel that the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah railed against: Isaiah 1:13, 58:3-6 “…it is for strife and fighting that y’all fast and for striking with a wicked fist…” Jer. 14:10-12 “…They have loved to wander… though they fast, I will not hear their supplication...” (cf. Jer. 36).
s The prophet Joel repeatedly called the people of Israel to fast out of true repentance from their sins, but they didn’t do it, so the prophet Zechariah (ch. 7) explains that this was why the nation of Israel was overthrown and the people held captive in Babylon for 70 years.
s In Babylon, a high-ranking government official named Haman tried to kill all the Jews, so the Jewish queen Esther asked all the Jews in Susa to fast for 3 days before she petitioned the Persian emperor to overturn his command to slaughter all he Jews. Esther’s request was favored, and the Jews were not slaughtered (Esther 4:16).
s While in Babylon, Daniel read Jeremiah’s prophecies and calculated that the 70 years God had decreed for Israel’s punishment was almost up, so he fasted and confessed his people’s sins and prayed for the restoration of Israel (Dan. 9:3). The prophet Zecheriah (ch. 7&8) mentions that the Jews in Babylon fasted on the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem, so that might have played into the timing of Daniel’s fast.
s Nehemiah, another Jew who was the Persian emperor’s cupbearer, heard about how desolate Jerusalem had become, so he mourned and fasted for days, praying to God about the situation (Neh. 1:4). His prayers were answered when the emperor allowed Nehemiah to take a construction team to rebuild the city of Jerusalem!
s Later on, Ezra, another Jew who was a government official in Babylon, set up a caravan of Jews to go across the desert from Iraq back to their homeland in Israel, and had them fast the day before they left to ask God for a safe journey (Ezra 8:23). Even though they were transporting a huge amount of gold and silver, and even though they had no soldiers to guard them, God kept them all safe.
s When Ezra got to Jerusalem, he led them in a day of fasting in which he read the law to them, they confessed their sins to God, and they renewed their covenantal relationship with God (Neh. 9:1).
s In the New Testament, there are also Godly people who fasted, such as Anna, the widow who worshipped God constantly in the temple with “fastings” – thought by many to be a discipline of fasting two days a week, on Mondays and Thursdays referenced by the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Two Men in the Temple (Luke 2:37, Luke 18:12).
s This is perhaps like the practice of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who do not eat red meat on Fridays in commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion on a Friday.
s A fast, by the way can be partial – just abstaining from desserts or from meat or whatever, or it can be going without any food while still drinking water or juice or tea, or, in some cases, even going without any food or drink – which can make you very sick if you go without anything to drink for more than a day or two, so it’s important to fast appropriately with consideration to your body that you do not abuse it.
s John the Baptizer’s disciples also had a regular discipline of fasting (Mat 9:14-15 || Mark 2:18-20 || Luke 5:33-35).
s Fasting seems to have been a part of the regular patterns of worship in the leaders of the church that was established later on in Antioch, Syria (Act 13:2-3), and it expressly says that they fasted as part of commissioning Paul and Barnabus to plant other churches.
s Paul and Barnabus, in turn, when they planted the first churches in Turkey, incorporated fasting into their commissioning of elders for churches in each town (Acts 14:23), a tradition which is carried on in some church denominations to this day.
s We saw earlier in chapter 4 that when Jesus embarked on His earthly teaching ministry, He engaged in an intense 40-day fast (Matt. 4:2).
s Fasting is something Jesus obviously expected Christians to do, for here in Matt. 6:16, He says, “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”
s To summarize, then, we have examples of people fasting before doing a special job for God’s glory, after a disaster to ask for God’s restoration, after a death to show mourning, during a time of repentance over sin that you have become aware of, as part of making a special request of God, or just as a regular discipline of devotion to God.
s “…fasting is a work of indifferent value, and does not, like alms, belong to the class of those actions which God requires... It is pleasing to God, only so far as it is directed to another object: and that is, to train us to abstinence, to subdue the lust of the flesh, to excite us to earnestness in prayer, and to testify our repentance, when we are affected by the judgment of God.” ~John Calvin
s “Fasting is not a duty for its own sake, but a means to dispose us for other duties… it is a holy revenge on ourselves… a demonstration that we are unworthy of daily bread, curbing the flesh and its desires to make us more lively spiritually…” ~Matthew Henry
s What is important, however, is that these acts of devotion be done in the context of a relationship with God rather than merely to impress other people. We’ve already looked at the importance of this back at the beginning of the chapter (6:2) where we covered the idea of doing acts of worship for God rather than for men.
s There were apparently people in Jesus’ day who took the act of fasting out of the context of a relationship with God and did elaborate acts to use fasting as a way to impress other people:
s Σκυθρωποι is found in only 10 other places in the Bible, all having to do with a change for the worse in the way someone’s face or eyes looked – either due to emotional turmoil or due to physical illness. It is a compound of two words meaning, “sad/glum + eyes.”
s Hypocrites of Jesus’ day who wanted to look like they were godly, spiritual people, would walk around with somber, droopy eyes when they fasted, maybe shuffling a bit as they walked to make it look like their spiritual devotion was a great sacrifice for their bodies.
s They wouldn’t brush or wash their hair, and they would throw ashes on their head and cover their faces with black ash and then walk around town (instead of staying in their prayer closet!) so that everybody would see and notice what remarkable lengths they would go to out of devotion to God.
s As Jameison, Fausset and Brown’s commentary says, “It was not the deed, but the reputation for the deed which they sought.”
s Granted, they did have a law in the Mishna demanding that nobody wash or anoint their head on the Day of Atonement, but Jesus is talking about people who were not merely trying to conscientiously follow this customary law, but hypocrites whose hearts were oriented toward praise from men rather than favor with God.
s In the Greek text, there is a play on words, for the word translated “revealed” is same as the word “disfigure” except the latter has an alpha privative prefix. By choosing the same word, Jesus is showing the hypocrisy of “covering over” their faces with ashes in order to “uncover” publicly an act that should have been between them and God.
s “Anoint” means “put oil on” i.e. use standard health and beauty aids – don’t call attention to the fact that you’re fasting by making yourself look disheveled and sad. Wash up as usual, condition your hair, and put on your deodorant. Fasting is for God to notice, not for the attention of people, so just act normal when you are fasting so that you don’t involve other people in it and you can keep the matter between you and God.
s Maybe you accumulate earthly praise in ways other than a show-off fast. Maybe you are fishing for attention by the way you dress or the way you talk with others in church rather than coming to worship God. That would be the same kind of hypocrisy.
s Maybe there are other good things you do, but which you do in such a way as to make it look like it was a big deal for you to do them. Maybe you’re tired from taking care of sick children or gestating a new baby or spending a late night or an early morning on a ministry project. Don’t let yourself go unkept and mope around complaining to show the world how much sleep you sacrificed. Instead, take the time to look nice and be cheerful. God sees all that you are investing in those little people’s lives in the middle of the night when every one else was asleep, even if no one else did.
s Jesus goes on in v.19-20 to say that it’s not earthly things we should be after:
6:19 Don’t lay up/store up/gatherHendriksen/hoardJFB/keep accumulating for yourselves accumulations/ treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust/consumption corrupt/destroy/are tarnishing/devaluing, and where thieves are breaking in and stealing, 20but keep accumulating for yourselves accumulations in heaven, where neither moth nor rust are devaluing and where thieves neither break in nor steal,
19Μη θησαυριζετε ‘υμιν θησαυρους επι της γης ‘οπου σης και βρωσις αφανιζει και ‘οπου κλεπται διορυσσουσιν και κλεπτουσιν 20θησαυριζετε δε ‘υμιν θησαυρους εν ουρανω ‘οπου ουτε σης ουτε βρωσις αφανιζει και ‘οπου κλεπται ου διορυσσουσιν ουδε κλεπτουσιν
s It is an innate human trait to collect things. When I was a boy, I had a collection of metal caps that were used as lids on glass Coke bottles. One of my boys (I won’t say who) has followed in my steps with a collection of toothpaste caps, and I believe one of my girls has kept all her loose teeth. When I was a teenager, I collected music albums. Now as an adult, I have a thing about publishing articles on the Internet – over the last two decades, I’ve published thousands of pages of information, and I like to keep links to it all at my website. For other people it may be other things like money invested in a bank, firearms collections, a house nice enough to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens, educational degrees added to the end of your name, or Facebook friends.
s Jesus says that we should not organize our lives around collecting things for ourselves on earth. This is consistent with the rest of scripture (NASB is quoted in the list below):
o Psalm 39:6 "Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.”
o “…the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Prov. 13:22b)
o There is, by the way, a proper place for accumulating wealth that you can pass on to your children: Prov. 13:22a “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children” and 2Cor. 12:14b “…children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.”
o 2Kings 20:17 The prophet Isaiah warned King Hezekiah, 'Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,' says the LORD.
o Zech. 9:3 Tyre built herself a fortress And piled up silver like dust, And gold like the mire of the streets. Behold, the LORD will dispossess her and cat her wealth into the sea; and she will be consumed with fire. Which is exactly what Alexander the Great did.
o James 5:3 “Your gold & your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days you have stored up your treasure!”
o Luke 12:21 This kind of selfish and pointless stockpiling of wealth was exemplified in the parable Jesus told of the man who had a bumper crop and decided to build his barns bigger to contain it all: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
o So what do we do with excess? Paul instructed Christians to do a different kind of “laying up” or “collection” to be delivered to poor people in Jerusalem: 1Cor. 16:2 “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.”
s Which collection is it that you focus on? What do you think the most about adding to? Is there a pile of things somewhere that you are proud of and that you like to show off to people? Jesus says that this collection or accumulation of things is where your heart is, and if that pile of things that you are focused on adding onto each day is a physical pile on earth somewhere, you are headed for a disappointing end of story! Frankly, I struggle with the fact that all my writings and recordings will be burned up one day; will they bear enough fruit into eternity to be worth the time I spent on them?
s Jesus says that earthly accumulations are at risk from moths, consumption, corruption, and theft.
s He continues the play on words using the same word for “Disfigure/cover over their faces” in v.16 to describe the obscuring effect of moths and corrosion to the looks and value of earthly investments.
s “moth” (σης) ILLUSTRATION: Show shirt with moth-hole, also show tarnished silver.
s “rust” (βρωσις) better translated “consumption”
o none of the 46 other times this word appears in the Bible does this word refer to rust; it always refers to food and the eating of food.
o It reminds me of the economic principle stated in Ecclesiastes 5:11 “When good things increase, those who consume them increase”
o ILLUSTRATION: MICE IN THE LENTILS – My wife bought a bunch of beans and stored them in a closet earlier this year so we’d always be able to just pull out a bag when we needed to make a meal. However one day about a month ago, my son Beni was rummaging in his cello case for something and found a handful of lentils there. That’s odd, we thought. Perhaps the original owner of the cello used them to regulate the humidity of the cello. Then my wife found a bag of lentils in the pantry that had a hole in it, dribbling lentils all over the floor when she picked it up, and making a mess that she had to clean up. Then, a couple of weeks ago, my wife found a dead mouse inside one of her bags of lentils, and we realized there may have been a connection between the hole in the bag and the stash in the cello case. That suspicion was confirmed two nights ago when my wife pulled a stack of t-shirts out of another closet and found another stash of lentils nestled among the shirts. Our lay-away of lentils was being eaten by mice who were also re-locating our food to their nests in various parts of the house! That’s the picture Jesus paints here.
o It is natural for us to want to stockpile food, but food gets eaten by us and by other hungry critters. And, as anyone who has been eating stockpiles of dried and canned food since Y2K (yes, I confess, some of the beans in our pantry were purchased in 1999), the flavor and nutritional value of food degrades over time as well. A friend gave us their stockpile of freeze-dried green beans from Y2K a couple of years ago, and we tried to eat them, but they were so nasty we finally just threw them away!
s “What could be more senseless than to put one’s goods where either they will waste on their own or be snatched up by robbers? …for all of them shall be affected by decay, or theft, or the thousand other turns of fate, especially since God provides us with a place in heaven to lay up our treasure and gently invites us to possess riches which shall never waste away.” ~John Calvin
s Isa 51:8 “For as a garment will be devoured by time, and as wool will be devoured by a moth, so shall they be consumed; but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation for all generations.” says the LORD (Brenton)
s Jesus offers the ultimate investment plan!
o Thieves can drill through a foot of steel and pilfer bank vaults, but they will never be able to access our treasure in heaven.
o The Fed can print dollar bills and fabricate international loans out of thin air that will sap the value out of any money you currently hold - so that a dollar in the bank can only buy a tenth of what it could have bought 50 years ago, but our investments in heaven will never be devalued.
o Your investments can suffer from mismanagement, like the Money Markets of the last decade, but God will never misuse or invest carelessly what you give to Him.
o “Every hand of violence will be aiming at the house where treasure is laid up… but in heaven… it is safe.” ~Matthew Henry
o Likewise, as we’re seeing in the presidential campaigns these days, it is risky to invest in the praise of men because a little folly and slander can deprive you all the praise men formerly heaped upon you, but God’s lovingkindness is everlasting, and He will not forget your love for Him (Heb 6:10).
o By the way, “If all you laid up was refuse victuals and old clothes… God will take care to give you all that they were worth.” ~Adam Clarke
1. Win souls:
o God is a collector! He collects people, and He is keeping careful records of them all in a book.
o 8 places in the Bible refer to a “book of life” Psa. 69:28; Php. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:27;
o Malachi 3:16-17 “…the LORD gave attention… and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. "They will be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession..." (NASB)
o Psalm 87:6 The LORD will count when He registers the peoples, "This one was born there [in Zion – or was born again]." (NASB)
o Luke 10:20b "…rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (NASB)
o Rev. 5:9 "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe & tongue & people & nation.” (NASB)
o I believe that God is preparing to demonstrate that He was true to His word, for He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that all the nations and families of the earth would be blessed. I believe God is keeping a written record to prove it!
o If we want to enter into His passionate pursuit, we will seek to be an influence on as many people as we can that they may be gathered to our Lord in heaven as His people with us. That means making disciples, just like Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28, whether by having children, adopting children, making friends and evangelizing them, correspondence ministry, or maybe even internet publishing, whatever, make disciples. The souls of men will last forever in heaven or hell, so let’s win souls that will go to heaven!
2. Give to the poor:
o Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (NASB) This storehouse may well have been the one mentioned in Deut. 14:28-29 which was for the poor as well as the Levites who were full-time ministers of the Lord.
o Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” (NASB) It is a reformed tradition to keep principle invested but donate the interest earned off the principle rather than giving away all the principle and being unable to give on a regular basis from your increase.
o Mat 25:34-40 “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me… to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NASB)
o Giving to the poor and making disciples accumulates treasure in heaven!
Jesus goes on to say in v.21 and following that when we pursue the attention of God rather than the attention of Man and invest in heavenly treasure rather than earthly, it makes an impact on us for good.
 Quoted from Vincent’s Word Studies, Vol 1, p.45.
 απεχουσιν τον μισθον αυτων “they are holding out on their reward” can also mean “they have their reward in full” See my comments on 6:2.
 According to John Gill
 Gen 40:7, where Pharaoh’s baker and wine-taster were thrown into prison and then had disturbing dreams, and Joseph asked them why they looked so “sad,” A few times in the Psalms, where David speaks of “mourning” (Ps. 35:14, 38:6; 42:9; 43:2), Prov. 15:13 “When the heart rejoices the countenance is cheerful; but when it is in sorrow, the countenance is sad.” (Brenton) Jeremiah, who mourned over God’s punishment of Israel when they were sent into captivity (Jer. 19:8; Jer. 50:13), Daniel 1:10, where Daniel’s warden was afraid that if he fed his Jewish charges kosher food, they would look “worse/haggard/gloomy” and he would be executed for not feeding them well enough, and Luke 24:17, where Jesus, after His resurrection, met the two men on the road to Emmaeus who were “sad/downcast.”
 Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 1. & Taanith, c.1. sect. 4-6. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 77. 2. Taanith, fol. 12.2. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. affirm. 32.
 “Do not have this habit (μη and the present imperative)” ~A.T. Robertson
 My conclusion is supported by: Matthew Henry, John Gill, Marvin Vincent, and A.T. Robertson, as well as Strong and Thayer. On the other side in support of “rust” are the contemporary lexicographers, Ralph Earle, William Hendricksen, and Louw & Nida. Arndt & Gingrich seem to lean toward the latter. Adam Clarke prefers “canker” and JFB interpret as “wear & tear.”