Matthew 6:16-18 (KJV)

16 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. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 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.

In Matthew Christ teaches that you should not appear to people as fasting, but this should be done in secret. Does this text also cover not disclosing to those who will query one about his/her fasting status?

  • Note that Jesus said the same thing about praying.
    – Perry Webb
    May 7, 2018 at 20:30
  • 1
    To answer this question would be at odds with Jesus' disdain for the Pharisaical approach to the Torah where men defined the commands by how far up the arm one must wash, how far one is permitted to walk on a sabbath, how much they may lift, etc. Suffice it to say that one should not seek to impress men but to please God. Beyond that one is simply cultivating the leaven of the Pharisees.
    – Ruminator
    May 8, 2018 at 13:31

2 Answers 2



Mathew 6 has the hypocrites do three things for which they get their reward:

  1. 6:2 They do sound a trumpet before them before giving alms
  2. 6:5 they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men
  3. 6:16 they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. (Our one for this question)

These are all announcements and attention-grabbers, and it is the attention grabbing that is at fault. The problem is doing alms, making prayers, fasting not for spiritual sake but religious/social sake. thus it would probably fall afoul to ask "ask you fasting" in hope that you will be asked in return. Like most of Jesus' teaching, it is about your heart being rightly directed to God. But nothing in Jesus' teaching would require dishonesty in response to a direct question. That is going far beyond what the text actually says. "Secret" is more about privacy than sneakiness.


I believe the rule is what Jesus said about hypocrisy "to be seen of men" Mat 6:6 and Mat 23:5. It boils down to motivation.

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