Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
When we fast or pray or give seeking to be noticed for it, we are actually doing it “unto men” and not unto the Father. We are seeking men’s approval and admiration and receive men’s rewards. When things are done for show, they are very hollow. And if we have to prove our spirituality with a bunch of religious-looking acts, perhaps our inner, secret relationship with God is not what it should be.
God sees in secret. He is looking in a different place than everyone else. His focus and attention is elsewhere because He is looking in those places that no one else can see. He is aware of the inner workings of our hearts and minds. He examines our intentions and our motives. He knows everything we do and why we are doing it. So we may be able to put on a show and fool others and make ourselves seem a certain way, but God knows who we really are.
It’s not to be about making an outward show of piety, but actually cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with God where our actions don’t have to be seen and applauded. It’s not about projecting the appearance of being spiritual just to look better than other people, but the purpose is to actually grow in our relationship with God, to know Him in a deeper way, to understand our place in His plan and who He wants us to be. No one else really even needs to know about those things we do that help us to draw nearer to our Lord, but it is often a very personal and private thing.
And as we build that relationship, we start to change, and the results of our secret times with God will be visible to those around us. God blesses our lives in a visible way, so He gets the glory even then. God shines through us and our lives, and that’s exactly what is supposed to happen when we are giving Him first place in our lives and focusing on Him. May we be willing to do those things that help us to grow in our relationship with God. May it go beyond doing things for the sake of appearances, but rather to truly worship, serve, and know God in a deeper way, seeking His attention more than anyone else’s.