Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, 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: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.


Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance
Yesterday I looked at examples of inappropriate levity, and today we consider inappropriate solemnity. Already in this study we have considered Jesus approving Mary and his disciples for joying in his presence, even though there were others that were calling for a more serious attitude.
But in today’s verses Jesus discusses another situation. He mentions a time when it is totally appropriate to be solemn, such as when fasting, but how it is hypocritical to exaggerate one’s solemn demeanor for everyone else to see. The fact is some of us get the mentality that being somber is better than being happy, so we strive to show as much somberness as we possibly can.
I’m sure all of us can recall times that we or others became extremely pious, not for God’s sake, but for the sake of our fellow worshippers. We wanted their admiration, we wanted them to appreciate how serious we were in the cause of right. “Holier than thou” moments are not the only example of this, either. Even outside of religious circles we often bemoan how busy we are with so much duty and work and responsibility, looking for a pat on the back for carrying so much burden. In our society it is often seen as a virtue to be overworked and overstressed.
I’ve been guilty of these exaggerated displays of solemnity myself. As a general rule, I try remind myself that if I am sad, it is okay to be sad, and if I am solemn, it is okay to be solemn, and if someone asks me about these troubles I can speak of them honestly…..But, if I am exaggerating my outward expression of sadness and solemnity for the express purpose of gaining the attention of others, then I am passive aggressive, and I am treating emotions as a currency, something we don’t ever want to do.

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