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Matthew 6:16–18 ‘But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ (vv17–18)

The good we do in obedience to God runs the risk of becoming a source for our own self-promotion and gratification. Self-congratulation, encouraged by the praise of others, is a temptation we all face. We desire affirmation for the things we do. However, anonymity is taught by Jesus (Luke 5:14). God’s work is clear only to those with eyes and ears to see and hear it. This is not for some hidden, mystical purpose but because learning the ways of God is the product of faithful and devoted discipleship. Whilst God’s kingdom is open to all, He recognises human capacity for self-deceit; we so easily assume the applause and recognition we receive is due to our ability. We fail to step aside and allow God all the glory.

Whilst it appears an impossibility to conceal what we are doing, as in fasting and giving (Matt. 6:3–4), when we become known for such things we run a great risk. In our society many people seek to make names for themselves. This feeds human vanity and can guarantee financial success. However, God knowing our weakness in such areas warns us to go about our spiritual formation quietly, determined to remain as invisible as possible. Whatever we do in God’s service we should keep between us and God; yet we are to appear healthy and whole, as this speaks well to others of the love and care of the God we worship.

SCRIPTURE TO CONSIDER: Isa. 58:1–9; Jer. 5:18–31; Matt. 13:10–17; Luke 14:1–14.

AN ACTION TO TAKE: One of the greatest challenges is to choose to be anonymous. Is it sufficient to be fully known by God alone?

A PRAYER TO MAKE: ‘Lord, teach me to fast in quietness and to serve You without seeking human recognition. Amen.’

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.