- 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.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- “Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces.
- For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be
- fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
For a collection of other versions see BibleHub Matthew 6:16
Previously this chapter has discussed proper procedure for alms giving and prayer. In this verse Jesus moves on the third important form of Jewish worship: fasting. Fasting was an important part of piety in this period. All Jews were expected to fast on major holidays, such as the Day of Atonement, but some far more often, sometimes twice a week. Jesus' views on fasting parallels his views of other forms of worship. He decries those that make a public spectacle of their piety, and assures his followers that the reward for such worship is only public adulation, and God will give no reward for this behaviour.
"Disfigure their faces" (aphanizo) literally means "make their faces invisible." It may refer to putting ash on the face to darken one's complexion and make sure that everyone around is aware that one is fasting. This may also reflect the original meaning of hypocrite as actor, as these fasters are putting on a show of suffering.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985. pg. 137
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
- Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992.
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