Yesterday we were talking about the “why” when we do things for the Kingdom. Today, in verse 18, Jesus continues that thought.
Matthew 6:18 says this: “so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
This statement is very similar to comments Jesus made about charity (Matthew 6:4) and prayer (Matthew 6:6). Jesus promised that God the Father sees what His people do in secret. This was not a threat or a warning. His point was that God notices when His faithful people meet the needs of others, or pray or, as stated now, participate in fasting. God is watching and sees when His people honor Him in their hearts even if nobody else ever knows it. Since He is the only One we should seek to please, He is the only One who needs to know.
Jesus goes even further: Not only does God see; He rewards such behavior. Jesus emphasizes over and over in His teaching that God truly cares more about the hearts and motivations of His people than their outward actions. This is a major theme of the Sermon on the Mount, and especially the teachings given in chapter 5.
It’s hard to estimate how this teaching must have affected the original audience. These people had lived their entire lives under a performance-driven religious system where all that mattered was outward actions. Image, reputation, honor and shame were all that mattered. That’s not how the law given by God was supposed to work (Matthew 5:17), but that was how it had come to be practiced. Jesus is correcting the teaching and practice of Israel’s religious leaders (Matthew 5:20).
So, this last paragraph really drives home the state of the world that Jesus was speaking to. These people were so used to this. So used to the show, to the recognition, to the “good vibes” that were expected and probably received when they “showed off” their faith. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s why Jesus is making such a long point of this.
He’s resetting the motives. Resetting the reason that people are involved in a relationship with Him to begin with. It’s all about Him. All about being known and loved by Him. It’s not about what the world wants in our relationship with God. It’s about Jesus.
Don’t seek the world. Seek Jesus.