A few days ago, a friend told me something that his father used to say, "Reputation is what you do when others are watching. Character is what you do when no one is watching." I really like that quote and it is a good reminder of whether I am doing out of character or reputation. I remember worrying about my reputation when I was an adolescent; I was always worried about what others were thinking about me. That caused me to act in a way that wasn't really who I was because I wanted to please other people. The problem with that way of thinking is the fact that I had it completely mixed up. I am to be living my life to please my Heavenly Father not humans. Please look up Matthew 6:16-18.
Over the last five weeks, all of the examples of fasting have been very public or corporate fasts. Today's scripture is telling us that we are to fast quietly just between ourselves and God. Obviously there must be a balance somewhere in there. I think that it is because there is a time for a corporate fast and a time for an individual fast. When we feel like we need to fast to seek God or that God is leading us to fast, that is a time when it is an intimate and private time with you and God. Another issue that Jesus was pulling out was the fact that some of the religious leaders didn't just fast, they made a big deal out of it to appear righteous; it became an issue of reputation rather than character.
God is not in the business of developing reputation; He wants to develop character. Jesus reminds us that when we seek to improve our reputation with humans, that will be all the reward we will receive. However, when we make our goal to seek God's heart and want to please Him, our reward will come from Him. Jesus tells us that our Father who is unseen by us sees all that we do. He sees when our hearts (or character) wants to grow and deepen in our knowledge and understanding of Him. Ecclesiastes 2:26 tells us what God will do for those who please Him, "To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." What beautiful treasures God wants to give us! He promises wisdom, knowledge and happiness.
Are you building reputation or developing character?