Fasting Facts for 3-8 Year Olds

(Matthew 6:16-18)

Categories: Sermon on the Mount

  • After the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus talks about fasting, which often means that people don’t eat for a certain amount of time.
  • The word for fasting means “deny yourself.”
  • The Day of Atonement is the only time the law requires Jews to fast.
  • Publicly, people might fast for good crops, etc.
  • Privately (that’s just with yourself), there are other reasons for fasting.
  • People might prepare for some great event – Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness.
  • People might fast during a time of sadness.
  • People might fast to understand God’s direction – Paul fasted for three days after being blinded by the vision of Jesus telling him to serve him and spread the good news.
  • Jesus does not say, “Don’t fast.” He says, “When you fast...”
  • “Don’t look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”
  • The word for “disfigure” means to make one’s face so you couldn’t recognize it—like a Halloween costume where you wear make-up or masks.
  • Typically, back then, when non-fasting people are in public, they trim their beards, comb their hair, wear clean clothes, and put oil on their heads for cleanliness.
  • Jews who are fasting put ashes on their faces. They probably wouldn’t wear any makeup that day. They probably didn’t comb their hair.
  • Sometimes they’d cover themselves with flour. Then they’d go out and make sure everyone saw them.
  • Imagine being next to a person who is all covered with flour. You’d notice that.
  • And that’s what Jesus is saying we shouldn’t do—fast in order to get other people’s attention. The religious leaders usually do this to “show men they are fasting.”
  • It is true that people who are genuinely fasting might act humbly and not do some of these things.
  • Jesus is saying that the motivation is important.
  • Fasting can’t be a performance.
  • If it is, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth they have received their reward in full.” They may have other people notice them, but that’s all they’ll get.
  • So Jesus says, “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.” In other words, look normal.
  • If people are fasting, if they’re being noticed by God, that should provide an inner joy that makes them very, very happy.
  • Jesus adds, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
  • There is an important point being made, and Matthew wants us to get it.
  • Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving should be private.
  • That’s the point Matthew wants us to get.