“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting." (Matt. 6:16)

(continuing) "I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But then you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you hare fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen, and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt. 6:16-17)

There are several clear messages in this statement by Jesus. Firstly, it contains the acknowledgment that devotional fasting is pleasing to God. By devotional fasting we mean fasting on holy days commemorating God and God’s servants. While religious holidays like the birth dates of saints and periodic dates of ceremony have become feasting days to secular society, fasting for devotional reasons has a long tradition in every religious teaching not to mention the teachings passed down by Abraham and Moses.

Devotional fasting contrasts greatly to secular fasting, in that a devotional fast is done to please God and as a statement to God that He is more important than the belly or pleasing one’s tongue. A devotional fast is accompanied by devotional acts that are otherwise pleasing to God as well. These include praise of God and about God, which include singing His Names and glories. These also include scriptural study and discussions that praise and acknowledge Him. These also include listening to sermons or lectures from our teachers.

The secular fast is one done to display to others how austere we are. For some, the fast may also be about being healthy or losing weight. In both of these instances, the reward is given immediately, in physical terms. If done for health reasons, our bodies immediately reflect the health result of the fast. We may lose weight or detoxify our system, which can be fairly immediate after a day of fasting.

We can also receive the respect or admiration of others by fasting. As soon as we proudly display to others or proudly tell others that we are fasting, we have earned our reward immediately by gaining that person’s respect, admiration or attention. Even by having the intent of fasting for the attention of others—so that we can tell others or be accepted by others—we have lost the devotional aspect of the fast.

If our purpose is to gain respect, attention or be accepted by others, we have effectively passed or left behind the humble intention to please God with that activity. We have in effect, signed a contract to receive another benefit—one of pleasing others, which we hope will ultimately please ourselves by gaining the attention and respect of others.

Another clear message in this statement is that Jesus is acknowledging God’s existence elsewhere: God's existence beyond the physical world. Jesus says God is “unseen.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that God cannot be seen, but that He is unseen to physical eyes.

As for those who claim that Jesus is God, this also clarifies otherwise. Jesus is acknowledging God’s existence as “unseen” while Jesus himself is appearing in front of whom he is speaking. So how could Jesus be God if he is speaking about someone else as "unseen?"

Yet another message of this statement is Jesus’ emphasis on us establishing our own personal relationship with God. The fact that he says that God “sees what is done in secret,” and that our fasting will be seen by God, tells us that what pleases God is when we act in a way that is personal and confidential. We reach out to Him within ourselves, in order to establish a deep private relationship that doesn’t involve others.

This is the nature of our original existence. Every one of us was created to exchange a direct, unique and personal relationship with God. We each thus have our own unique relationship with Him. God wants us to revive that personal relationship with Him. This is the intention of Jesus’ teachings.