A Relationship We Want: Matthew 6:14-18

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:14-18 (NIrV)

14 Forgive other people when they sin against you. If you do, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive the sins of other people, your Father will not forgive your sins.

16 “When you go without eating, do not look gloomy like those who only pretend to be holy. They make their faces look very sad. They want to show people they are fasting. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward. 17 But when you go without eating, put olive oil on your head. Wash your face. 18 Then others will not know that you are fasting. Only your Father, who can’t be seen, will know it. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.

Read Matthew 6:14-18 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

The majority of the passage we are looking at deals with the topic of fasting. But while fasting is just one of several spiritual disciplines, it may be that Jesus wants to point us towards how we should look at the whole group of spiritual disciplines. Alongside fasting, some other common spiritual disciplines include things like reading the Bible, praying, and resting to name a few. All these spiritual disciplines carry an interesting similarity: They can be done alone or with a group of people.

In this passage, Jesus concludes by saying, “Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.” (v. 18b)

Why would Jesus or God want us to do things secretly when they could be done with others? Wouldn’t doing an activity with someone else make it more enjoyable?  

Jesus’ statement in the middle of verse 16 gives us our answer: “They want to show people they are fasting.” These people are fasting not because they want to grow closer to God, and they don’t fast because God has called them to do so. Instead, they are simply fasting to look important or special to other people. Their motives seek to impress other people instead of humbling their hearts to God.

Jesus finishes verse 16 by saying, “What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward.” The people who put on a show for others will only be praised temporarily by other people. God is not impressed by these people or their actions, and He doesn’t reward people whose whole spiritual lives are based on impressing others.

Choosing any spiritual discipline, whether it is fasting, prayer, or reading the Bible because of how it makes you look to others is being prideful. The individual’s motive is not on moving towards God, but instead it is simply impressing others.

However, the other side of this is equally true: Things we do in secret to grow closer to God are rewarded. God might reward us immediately, or He may reward us with interest in the future. But whenever the reward comes, we can trust that God knows the best timing.

Jesus shares this passage because He wants us to realize the big truth that God wants a relationship with us that we want to have, not one that is based on what is popular at a particular moment in time.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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