Attention Getting Devices | Matthew 6:16-18
When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well. Matthew 6:16-18 | MSG
Writing about fasting, Scot McKnight frames it within an “A-B-C” rhythm of (A) a grievous sacred moment and (B) a natural response of fasting (leaving) and then (C) spiritual dividends or results of some sort (joy, life, forgiveness, perspective, strength, etc.). He emphasizes the point that the focus of our spiritual discipline in fasting is movement from A to B, rather than B to C – which is where we typically focus. With so many of these spiritual practices, we engage in them looking for the immediate payoff, reducing them to some sort of supposed manipulative tool that guarantees or leads to some tangibly experienced results. In the case of the Pharisaic practice Jesus comments upon in Matthew 6, the result sought was of dubious spiritual value to begin with. They looked for recognition and applause for their exertions in their practices of devotion and their self-inflicted suffering. Don’t go there, Jesus tells us. Though notice he does affirm the practice of leaving the table (it’s not “if you fast” but “when you fast,” some have observed). It’s just that when we do fast, we need to remember that it’s not a manipulative tool to get some personally desired results. I leave the table because I hear the call through encountering that “grievous sacred moment” so that I can seek his face and process the moment and life. No fanfare. No demands or expectations of some immediate payback. Underneath all healthy rhythms of leaving is the fundamental awareness that in leaving I am doing something within my reach so that over time I can be empowered to go beyond my reach. We will probably not even be aware of how leaving off food will feed us. But feed us it will.
When have you tried to fast? What called you to it? What happened?
Lord, as you see I am ready for it, teach me about healthy, spiritual rhythms of fasting and prayer. Save me from my own compulsion to seek attention getting devices either before you or people. Teach me how to more simply and naturally be with you – with or without food.
When you sense one of those God moments, one of those “grievous sacred moments,” trying fasting for a morning or an afternoon. Miss a meal, and use that time instead to find an out of the way place to simply be with God.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.