Matthew 6:16-20
Mat 6:16 (KJB)
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.
Disfigure - Like an external alteration
The law of Moses called for a yearly fast. (Lev 16:29-31 KJV) And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: {30} For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. {31} It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. If anyone fasted at any other time, it was a voluntary fast. Some of the Pharisees had fasted twice a week, on Monday and Thursday. (Luke 18:12 KJV) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. This is why the Pharisee in the parable of the Publican and Pharisee bragged that he fasted twice in the week. What the Pharisees would do was to walk about with a very solemn look on their face and even left their faces unwashed. They walked about with torn clothing, no shoes, and even ashes sprinkled on the head. They wanted everyone to know they were fasting and just like them sounding a trumpet before they gave money, their reward was the notice of the people. Jesus did not reject fasting, what He did reject was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
Mat 6:17 (KJB)
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
Jesus is telling the people that when they fast, instead of walking around like the hypocrites, they were to anoint their heads with oil. (Psa 92:10 KJV) But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. They were not to walk around with sullen faces but they were to be joyful and this included washing their face so as not to draw attention to them. It was like prayer, people were not to know that they were praying as they went into their private places to pray and they were to be clean.
Mat 6:18 (KJB)
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.
They were not to appear in public in a religious show as the Pharisees did. When they fasted about a certain situation or need, they were to appear in public like they were not fasting, in other words, clean and presentable. The same situation exists here as it did with praying. If one is fasting about something in their lives and they are sincere and not doing it for show, then if their fasting is in accord with the will of God for their life, then God will reward them openly. In Isaiah 58:5-7, we see the type of fast which God desires from His people.
(Isa 58:5-7 KJV) Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? {6} Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? {7} Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
It is the fast of neglecting your own life for the purpose of sending forth the Gospel. It is giving your life to the service of the Lord rather than fasting for some personal reason. The fast is performed like this. If you go to the streets and hand out tracts for 5 hours, then you have fasted for five hours because you gave those five hours for the purpose of sending forth the Gospel instead of doing something else. Let us expand the meaning a little bigger. Your entire Christian life is to be a life of fasting, that is, of sending forth the Gospel and ministry. Many people are under the mistaken notion that you fast until you receive what you are asking God for. That is erroneous and let me give you an example. I became saved at the age of 27, I started praying for a Christian wife. What if I fasted until God sent me one? I am 62 right now and still single, which means no food or water for 35 years. So you see the Christian fast is not one of neglect of food and water, it is a life of sacrificial service. While the majority of Christians are watching football games on Sunday afternoon, you are out witnessing. You are fasting but the others are not.
Mat 6:19 (KJB)
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Lay up - Gather, store up, or reserve
Jesus now switches to the subject of material goods. I am sure if the Pharisees were listening, this would probably have cut them to the heart because they were laying up all kinds of treasures on earth for status in the community. The words “lay up” are in the Imperative Mood in the Greek making it a command that true Christians should not make material goods, especially money the focus of their attention on earth. This is a reality that man has never grasped. Life is transient so no one is going to keep their wealth on earth forever. In ancient times, money was coined in gold, silver, bronze and maybe some other type of metals. Each of these were kept in the home of the rich man but because of changing weather conditions, it would have an effect upon the metals the coins were made out of. If there was just a little bit of moisture in one of the chests where metal money was kept, it could cause all of them to rust and develop mold, thus making the money useless. Now in today’s economy, the rust that corrupts your wealth could be changing market conditions, supply and demand, job loss, or a devaluation of the currency, or inflation. In 1970 when I started driving, gas was between 26¢ and 37¢ per gallon. Today it is $3.50 per gallon, more in other parts of the world. So Jesus is pointing to the fact that worldly wealth is never stable but always in flux, what is worth $20 today, could be worth $5 tomorrow.
Then Jesus speaks about the moths corrupting. This would refer to the fine clothes that the wealthy buy. It also refers to the household furnishings that can be affected by any type of insect invasion. Think also in agrarian terms that a person may have crops and then comes along a locust invasion and eats the entire crop. Jesus is pointing to the fact that if you have any type of material goods, they are subject to destruction. Have you ever seen a before and after picture of a community hit by a tornado? In 15 minutes, everything is gone. Not only do we have to worry about the natural predators such as insects, weather, or other animals, we must also worry about thieves breaking in and stealing our money. At the time of Jesus, it was easy because there were no locks on the doors or even glass windows so someone could get in and out very quickly.
The overriding principle here is that the more a person has, the more they will strive to gain more so they can keep their status and lifestyle. Their obsession with their wealth becomes the driving force of their life. Jesus is telling them that this world is fleeting and unstable, and those who focus on wealth will be disappointed, both in this world and the next. Jesus is not saying we cannot have any material goods, because we need a place to live, a car to get around, food on the table, money to buy necessities but when the gathering of material goods becomes our obsession then we get into trouble.
Mat 6:20 (KJB)
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
In contrast to placing trust in the world system, the Lord Jesus Christ is commanding His followers to lay up treasure in Heaven. Whatever is laid up in Heaven will be safe for eternity. So then what is the treasure that we can lay up in Heaven for eternity? Since it is obvious that we cannot take it with us, there has to be a way to invest here on earth and have the investment transferred to Heaven. Let me give you the names of some earthly banks which can transfer your investment to Heaven. Africa Inland Mission, World Missionary Press, SIM International, Trans World Radio, HJCB, Pacific Garden Mission, Bible Broadcasting Network, Every Home for Christ, Mission Aviation Fellowship, etc. Whenever we give to a good mission outfit, or help those in need, or support a true church, we are investing in the Kingdom of God. Those investments are called treasures. The greatest treasures that we can send ahead are those who become saved and live with Christ for eternity. (Luke 16:9 KJV) And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. The scripture states that “when ye fail” and that is speaking of our physical death because the next phrase has us in Heaven. Who is receiving us into everlasting habitations? Those who became saved through our giving. It is not only money we give but our substance as well as our time. Our material goods like our car could reach hundreds per week if you place a good bumper sticker on the car. That is called using our substance.