“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – Matthew 6:1-18

He who dies with the most toys wins.
– Malcolm Forbes

“It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.”
― Sam Levenson

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

There is a vast difference between the rewards of living life under the sun as if there is no God and the rewards that can come only from the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of his elect children. There is a strain of Christianity that eschews reward thinking the only holy thing to do is deny self, deny those things which bring pleasure. That is not Biblical. The Biblical view is to focus on the greater pleasure of knowing and loving God, the gracious creator who rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

In the passage above Jesus identifies three activities that appear worthless if viewed from the perspective of the three quotes above: philanthropic giving, prayer, and fasting.

For those who live under the sun, philanthropy is to be announced with press releases and plaques naming the donors. Prayer is a waste of energy since there is no one to hear and fasting, oh my, fasting is silly self-denial.

Jesus clearly states a different value to these activities when done not to the public, but to the One who sees in secret. Three times he says, “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Based on our actions, the American church sees these three activities in descending order of significance. We see “giving” as really important and make a big deal of church budgets and giving sufficiently to meet those budgets. We want to have the “best of everything” in our church, and the best of everything costs lots of money, so giving is high on the list of virtues for church members. However, Jesus is referring to giving to aid the poor. Unfortunately, most of our budgeted giving falls into the category of “practicing our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them;” the reason for the best of everything.

Giving to aid the poor without fanfare doesn’t make you look good because no one knows you did it but the one who sees in secret. His promise is that your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Will your rewards come in the here and now? Maybe, maybe not. But it is sure that you will be rewarded.

I find I am turning a corner in my expectations. Maybe it is my age and awareness of my mortality, but I am beginning to think more and more that I am not concerned with rewards today as I am for rewards in the New Heaven and New Earth.

Prayer, which seems to be a waste of time to those who live under the sun, when done in secret to the one who sees in secret brings down the rule of the King in the kingdom of God. Prayer brings to bear the rule of heaven here on earth in the here and now. In our highly secularized culture in America, the temptation to be seen publicly praying is not great. Public prayer is often scoffed, so we don’t have a great deal of temptation to be seen praying in public. We might, however, be tempted to put on a religious show during a church worship service. It’s the same sin. Oh, I don’t mean praying a prayer in the congregation is sin such as in my church where each Sunday there are two Elder led prayers. Whether or not it is a “show” is in the heart of the person praying, and I have not been given insight into that.

The promised reward is, however, given to those who pray in secret to the one who sees in secret. The reward is to the heart poured out to God alone. The glory of the reward is multi-faceted. There is, of course, the direct answer to the prayer. There is also the increased intimacy that the person who prays gains with God. There is the deep joy of fellowship with the Eternal One. Those who do not pray know nothing of these glorious rewards.

The least acknowledged of these three rewarded activities in the American church is fasting. Most American Christians give at some level and pray on some degree of regularity. But most American Christians know nothing of fasting. They have never done it for any reason. We Americans don’t know much about fasting and therefore don’t do much of it. That is not the case in the Global South church below the equator. I have been reading “The Kingdom Unleashed,” published in 2018,  which chronicles the phenomenal growth of the church in the Global South. One consistent component of these movements of the kingdom of God is much prayer and fasting, lots of both. (If you want to be challenged to greater things for the kingdom of God in the Global North, I highly recommend this read. Your heart will be built up and challenged by the testimony of what God is doing among brothers and sisters in the South.)

I did a very brief study of my own on fasting looking for the purpose and function of fasting. I found fasting to be a component of all of these categories:

Fasting is a component of worship

Fasting and prayer as a component of victory

Fasting as a component of mourning

Fasting as a component of repentance

Fasting accompanying the setting aside and commissioning of ministers

Fasting is to be practiced until the second coming of Christ

Fasting is not for external show

I have a lot to learn and experience in the realm of fasting and by God’s grace will make it a regular part of my life in Christ. I want to experience the great kingdom victories that are there for our taking. This is a component of spiritual warfare, and we should learn to practice fasting in secret to him who sees in secret. Do you have places in your life where it appears that the devil has control? I encourage you to take it to the enemy in the name of Jesus and see him defeated. Fasting is a component of victory.

Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.