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20. The Beatitudes – Fasting & Treasures

Matthew 6:16  “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

Matthew 6:17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 

Matthew 6:18  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is “When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites.”—Matthew 6:16.

The fasting which the word of God enjoins is something more than a form. It does not consist merely in refusing food, in wearing sackcloth, in sprinkling ashes upon the head. He who fasts in real sorrow for sin will never court display.

The object of the fast which God calls upon us to keep is not to afflict the body for the sin of the soul, but to aid us in perceiving the grievous character of sin, in humbling the heart before God and receiving His pardoning grace. His command to Israel was, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.” Joel 2:13.

It will avail nothing for us to do penance or to flatter ourselves that by our own works we shall merit or purchase an inheritance among the saints. When the question was asked Christ, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” He answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” John 6:28, 29. Repentance is turning from self to Christ; and when we receive Christ so that through faith He can live His life in us, good works will be manifest.

Jesus said, “When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret.” Matthew 6:17, 18. Whatever is done to the glory of God is to be done with cheerfulness, not with sadness and gloom.

There is nothing gloomy in the religion of Jesus. If Christians give the impression by a mournful attitude that they have been disappointed in their Lord, they misrepresent His character and put arguments into the mouth of His enemies.

Though in words they may claim God as their Father, yet in gloom and sorrow they present to the world the aspect of orphans.

Christ desires us to make His service appear attractive, as it really is. Let the self-denials and the secret heart trials be revealed to the compassionate Saviour. Let the burdens be left at the foot of the cross, and go on your way rejoicing in His love who first loved you.

Men may never know of the work going on secretly between the soul and God, but the result of the Spirit’s work upon the heart.

Let us delf a little deeper and look at every single verse.

Verses 16–18 record the third in the series of religious duties here considered (see on v. 1).

Matthew 6:16  “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 

The reference is to voluntary, private fasting. To afflict the body for the sin of the soul is to dodge the issue and to miss the true nature of repentance, for sin is a disease of the soul rather than of the body (MB 87).

Jesus does not necessarily forbid a downcast look if it is genuine; He refers rather to the feigned appearance of the “hypocrites.”

Disfigure. Gr. aphanizō, “to make unseen,” or “to make unrecognizable.” Jesus here refers to the concealment, or hiding, of one’s true feelings by a simulated gloomy appearance—as an actor hides his own face under a mask—in a pretence of superior piety. When fasting, the “hypocrites” made a practice of going about unwashed, unshaven, and with unkempt hair and beard.

Mat 6:17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 

But when you. The Sermon on the Mount contrasts the philosophies of God and man. The teachings of Jesus—“but I say unto you” (ch. 5:22; etc.)—stand in opposition to those of the rabbis, and the lives of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven—“but you” (ch. 6:6; etc.)—in contrast with those of the “hypocrites.”

Jesus does not here commend fasting, nor does He condemn it. The very essence of fasting is the consciousness of personal need for doing so. Fasting is to be a personal experience entered into because of a sense of need, and not as a pious formality or to earn a reputation for superior piety. There is no virtue in fasting simply because a man is commanded to do so.

Put oil on your head. Oil was a symbol of joy (Ps. 45:7; 104:15). The anointing of the head with oil was figurative of blessings received (chs. 23:5; 92:10). Citizens of the kingdom of heaven may fast, but when they do so they are to dress and appear as usual, because fasting is personal, and loses its meaning if done to “appear unto men to fast.”

Matthew 6:18  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 

There is nothing gloomy about the Christian religion, and the Christian who is gloomy in either word or appearance misrepresents the character of God (MB 88). It is a joyous privilege to be the sons of God (1 John 3:1, 2), and a gloomy countenance gives us the appearance of being orphans rather than sons.


This is going to very interesting. Let’s listen to the advice of Jesus

Matthew 6:19  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 

Literally, “do not have the habit of laying up,” or “stop laying up.” The accumulation of worldly goods is generally motivated by a desire for security, and reflects fear and uncertainty for the future.

Jesus points out to those who would be citizens of His kingdom that the possession of material wealth is a source of anxiety rather than a means of escape from it.

The Christian will not be anxious concerning the material necessities of life because of his confidence that God knows his needs and will provide for them. Any conditions?

2 Thessalonians 3:10  For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 

Matt. 6:19–21 appears to have been in poetic form, and may have been a proverb.

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22.

Matthew 6:19  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 

Treasures. Gr. thēsaurous. Christ here refers to wealth in the broad sense of all material possessions. The love of money was the ruling passion of thousands in the time of Christ, as it is of millions today. In the Greek there is an interesting play on words.

Moth and rust. Symbols of various kinds of damage. Rust, Gr. brōsis, from bibrōskō, “to eat,” is literally something that eats, gnaws, or corrodes. Every material possession is affected in one way or another by loss, decay, depreciation, or deterioration.

Matthew 6:20  “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

In the Sermon on the Mount there is no injunction against the laying up of treasure provided it is laid up in the right place. Christ would have citizens of the kingdom of heaven make a sound investment of the time and strength their heavenly Father has seen fit to allot them in this life.

All that a man owns in this life is merely lent to him by God; only the “treasure” he succeeds in laying up in heaven can truly be called his own.

Such treasure is permanent, unaffected by the enemies of earthly treasure and the ravages of time. Investments in heavenly treasure appreciate with time, whereas those in earthly treasure inevitably depreciate.

Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Treasure is that on which a man sets his heart, regardless of intrinsic value. A child’s “treasures” may have little intrinsic worth, but they often mean as much to him as a king’s ransom. A man’s real interests lie where his “treasures” are.

Treasure laid up on earth will not endure; thieves break through and steal; moth and rust corrupt; fire and storm sweep away your possessions. And “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Treasure laid up on the earth will engross the mind to the exclusion of heavenly things.

The love of money was the ruling passion in the Jewish age. Worldliness usurped the place of God and religion in the soul.

So, it is now. Avaricious greed for wealth exerts such a fascinating, bewitching influence over the life that it results in perverting the nobility and corrupting the humanity of men until they are drowned in perdition. The service of Satan is full of care, perplexity, and wearing labour, and the treasure men toil to accumulate on earth is only for a season.

Matthew 6:20  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  

Matthew 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It is for your own interest to secure heavenly riches. These alone, of all that you possess, are really yours. The treasure laid up in heaven is imperishable. No fire or flood can destroy it, no thief despoils it, no moth or rust corrupt it; for it is in the keeping of God.

This treasure, which Christ esteems as precious above all estimate, is “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Ephesians 1:18. The disciples of Christ are called His jewels, His precious and peculiar treasure.

He says, “They shall be as the stones of a crown.” “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” Zechariah 9:16; Isaiah 13:12.

Christ looks upon His people in their purity and perfection as the reward of all His sufferings, His humiliation, and His love, and the supplement of His glory—Christ, the great Centre, from whom radiates all glory.

And we are permitted to unite with Him in the great work of redemption and to be sharers with Him in the riches which His death and suffering have won. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians:

1 Thessalonians 2:19  For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 

1 Thessalonians 2:20  For you are our glory and joy. 

This is the treasure for which Christ bids us labour. Character is the great harvest of life. And every word or deed that through the grace of Christ shall kindle in one soul an impulse that reaches heavenward, every effort that tends to the formation of a Christlike character, is laying up treasure in heaven.

Where the treasure is, there the heart will be. In every effort to benefit others, we benefit ourselves. He who gives money or time for spreading the gospel enlists his own interest and prayers for the work, and for the souls to be reached through it; his affections go out to others, and he is stimulated to greater devotion to God, that he may be enabled to do them the greatest good.

And at the final day, when the wealth of earth shall perish, he who has laid up treasure in heaven will behold that which his life has gained.

If we have given heed to the words of Christ, then, as we gather around the great white throne, we shall see souls who have been saved through our agency, and shall know that one has saved others, and these still others—a large company brought into the haven of rest as the result of our labours, there to lay their crowns at Jesus’ feet, and praise Him through the ceaseless ages of eternity.

With what joy will the worker for Christ  behold these redeemed ones, who share the glory of the Redeemer! How precious will heaven be to those who have been faithful in the work of saving souls!

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1.

Updated on 16th Nov 2022

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