Fasting (Mt 6:16-6:16)

“When you fast,

Do not look gloomy,

Like the hypocrites!

They disfigure

Their faces

So as to show others

That they are fasting.

Truly,

I say to you!

‘They have received

Their reward.’”

 

Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί· ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

Once again, this saying of Jesus is unique to Matthew.  The phraseology and content are similar to the earlier comments on almsgiving.  When you fast (Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε), you should not be like the hypocrites (ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ).  The Greek word “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  In this case they looked sad, dismal or gloomy (σκυθρωποί) since they were deliberately disfiguring their faces (ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν).  Thus, other people could see that they were fasting (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες).  Some pious Jews would fast twice a week.  Jesus also fasted for 40 days, so his followers could fast also.  As usual, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human approval have already received their reward here on earth (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).

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