Matthew 6:18
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.
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6:16-18 Religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, but it is not so much a duty itself, as a means to dispose us for other duties. Fasting is the humbling of the soul, Ps 35:13; that is the inside of the duty; let that, therefore, be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. God sees in secret, and will reward openly.But thou when thou fastest, anoint ... - That is, appear as you do daily. Do not assume any new appearance, or change your visage or dress. The Jews and all neighboring nations were much in the habit of washing and anointing their bodies. This washing was performed at every meal; and where it could be effected, the head, or other parts of the body, was daily anointed with sweet or olive oil. In a warm climate, exposed to the great heat of the sun, this practice conduced much to health, preserved the skin smooth and tender, and afforded a most grateful sensation and odor. See Mark 7:2-3; James 5:14; Mark 11:13; John 12:3.

The meaning of this whole commandment is, when you regard it to be your duty to fast, do it as a thing expressing deep feeling or sorrow for sin, not by assuming unfelt gravity and moroseness, but in your ordinary dress and appearance; not to attract attention, but as an expression of feeling toward God, and he will approve and reward it.

18. 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—The "openly" seems evidently a later addition to the text of this verse from Mt 6:4, 7, though of course the idea is implied.Ver. 16-18. Our Saviour in these words returns to his former work, to caution his disciples against hypocrisy, vain glory, and ostentation in their religious duties, the doing them to be seen of men. What he before said as to giving alms and prayer, he here again applies as to private fasting, which is by this discourse of our Saviour confirmed, though not as a stated, yet as an occasional duty of Christians, in order to, and as an indication of, their humbling of their souls for their sins, or under the mighty hand of God; but he requireth that it should be in sincerity, not in hypocrisy, for the glory of God, not for ostentation and appearance unto men. Our Saviour probably in this discourse hath a respect to some hypocritical usages of the Pharisees, using to disfigure their countenances, and look demurely or sourly upon their fasting days. Not that he prohibits here habits or gestures suited to the duty, himself sometimes commanded the Jews to put off their ornaments, nor was any thing more ordinary for good men than to cover themselves with sackcloth, and put ashes on their heads. All that our Lord prohibits is the affecting of these things, to cover the hypocrisy of their hearts. Nor must we think that it is the will of God, that we on such days should indeed anoint our heads and wash our faces; or (which is the same thing with us) adorn, paint, or perfume ourselves, or use any habits or gestures unsuitable to mourning, and not indicative of afflicted souls; but that we should rather do this than the other, viz. put on a mask and vizard of sorrow for sin, when indeed we had no sense of it; for still we must appear to our heavenly Father to fast, which we cannot very well do, if our outward habit and demeanour be not something proportioned to the inward sorrow and affliction of our souls; for the putting on of fine dresses and ornaments must be an imperate act of the soul, and not like to be commanded by a soul in affliction, it being natural to such a soul to neglect the culture of the body, being wholly swallowed up with bitter thoughts relating to its own spiritual and eternal state. Our Saviour addeth the same argument to press sincere fasting, which he had before used concerning the duty of giving alms and secret prayer, where I have before spoken to those words.

That thou appear not unto men to fast,.... Which is just the reverse of the hypocrites, the Scribes and Pharisees; and quite contrary to the customs of the Jews, who when they fasted, particularly on their noted fasts (l),

"brought out the ark into the street of the city, and put burnt ashes upon it, and upon the head of the prince, and upon the head of the president of the sanhedrim, and every man upon his own head.''

All which was done, to be seen of men to fast; but Christ directs to such sorts of fasting, and which is to be done in such a manner, as only to be seen by God:

but unto thy Father which is in secret; who is invisible, and who sees what is done in secret, and takes notice of the internal exercise of grace; which he approves of, and prefers to outward fastings; and

thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly: and to have honour from God, is infinitely more than to have the applause of men; for as God delights in, so he will reward his own grace with glory.

(l) Misn. Taanith, c. 2. sect. 1.

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.
Matthew 6:18. Τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ] sc. ὄντι, i.e. who is present where we are hidden from human eye. He who fasts is ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ everywhere, when he is present as anointed and washed, for in this state of his person no one will be able to recognise him as fasting. In accordance with this, we are bound to reject the explanation of Fritzsche, who supplies νηστεύειν (“eo quod clam inediam in te suscipias”), which, however, is far-fetched, and introduces a superfluous meaning, besides being inconsistent with Matthew 6:6.

ἀποδώσι σοι] not the fasting by itself, but the sincerely penitent and humble frame of mind, which seeks to express itself in that devout fasting which is free from everything like pretence and ostentation; there is therefore no satisfactory reason for expunging Matthew 6:16-18 (as also Matthew 6:1-6) from the Sermon on the Mount (Wittichen, Idee des Menschen, p. 100).

Matthew 6:18. Τῷ Πατρὶ, to thy Father) sc. thou mayest be known.

Verse 18. - Which is in secret (τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ); ver. 6, note. Shall reward thee openly (ver. 4, note). Matthew 6:18
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