they disfigure their faces

grumpy face

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

March 8, 2012

grumpy face

Jesus just finished teaching his disciples how to pray when he said to them, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:16a)

I dig how Jesus went ahead and offered this information up seemingly without being asked. It comes off like, “This is how you pray… and while I’m thinking about it, here’s another thing that drives me nuts…”

In the fuller context, Jesus explains what he means. I particularly like how Matthew 6:16-18 reads in The Message:

“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.”

I’m about a week into food month of [the 7 project], and I’m hungry. It didn’t take long for my diet of mostly eggs, toast, and rice and beans to leave me wanting more.

I know that I’m getting enough to eat. But I can’t shake of the desire for more. I’m used to going any time I want to the cabinet or refrigerator, and selecting something from the dozens of options set before me.

While I’m trying to be all spiritual, and think of something awesome to pray that’ll open up the Heavens, it’s this passage in Matthew that I can’t seem to shake right now.

I guess I need to check my attitude.

I’m really trying not to have the grumpy-face while I’m striving for super-spiritual greatness. Sure there’s discomfort. But if anything, the discomfort is starting to remind me how comfortable my life has gotten. This is what’s breaking my heart. When I think about the people my meals were intended to remind me of, part of me doesn’t want to be comfortable. In fact, I want nothing more than to get uncomfortable.

Something is happening inside me right now that’s undeniable.

And as I read (and study) this passage from Matthew, it’s not the grumpy-face part that ends up standing out. It’s that last statement when Jesus says, “He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.”


He knows. He knows. And He’s paying attention to what’s happening in my life right now. That alone has the power to knock the grumpy off my face, and leave me smiling.

Thank you Daddy, thank you for noticing. I promise to make you proud.

[the 7 project] at an experimental mutiny against excess


  1. Brooke F

    attitude is part of my problem too, just in a different way.  the challenge i set before myself isn’t difficult, but more like a vacation.  is there a #fastingfail hashtag on twitter?

    • @bibledude

      aww… brooke! i just read your rice and beans update, and i feel bad for you! please don’t feel like a failure. even if you’ve failed, you’re not a failure (i hope that makes sense). doing something like this should be difficult, and we may not get it ‘right’ all the time. but keep pressing on, and chase after Him… in the end, i think that’s the big lesson that i’ve learned (and tried to share in this post).

      make sure that you drop your link to your update here… 

      hang in there dude! as my wife and i tell each other… “it’ll be worth it!”

  2. Shanyn

    Attitude does it to us almost every time…wonderful post and very encouraging.   This is a season of challenge for me, and while inside I feel like a face of turmoil, the outside for my family and friends needs to be one of grace and encouragement.  Really well done, and good for you! Praying for you.

    • @bibledude

      it always seems like our attitude can be our biggest stumbling block, especially when #fasting. i think that getting our heads right in this can pay huge benefits. but you’re absolutely right about how intentional it is regardless of how we feel on the inside.

  3. everydayawe

    Thank you for this post! On a related note, something I think about with Lenten fasts is whether or not to talk about them. On the one hand, I think it is nice to know who is doing things and what they are doing, because of the way it connects us to community. On the other hand, when I share what I am doing, it can feel like that “tooting my own horn” attitude that Jesus says is not okay. I have also noticed that at the moment my fast is making me crave what I am not eating, not making me crave God. I think that is probably natural in early phases. I really connected with Ann Voskamp’s post yesterday,

    And I love what you say here to add to what I processed yesterday, “I’m really trying not to have the grumpy-face while I’m striving for
    super-spiritual greatness. Sure there’s discomfort. But if anything, the
    discomfort is starting to remind me how comfortable my life has gotten.
    This is what’s breaking my heart.” Agreed!

    • @bibledude

      this is exactly why @AnnVoskamp:twitter’s stuff resonates so deeply… it’s exactly where we’re all at! and i’m honored that you would connect what i’ve written here to her amazing post about fasting.

      i agree with the struggle with talking about doing a fast. i think it’s about our heart in it. i’ve caught myself a few times wanting to say to someone, “i’m fasting, because i’m a spiritual superhero.” well maybe not the superhero part, but before i opened my mouth i’ve had to ask myself what my motive was. at the same time, i have no issue talking to others who are doing this with me and encouraging each other regarding what God is doing in our lives… and that’s the perspective i take in writing this… it’s SO not a “hey, look how awesome i am” thing.
      thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Karyn at DFC

    This is an awesome post, Dan. Drawing closer to Him is an amazing yearning that is coming of this fasting and “uncomfortable” life for me too. Its unbelievable. How is your family doing with your fasting?

    • @bibledude

      11 days in, we’re doing pretty good so far with food month in [the #7project]. it’s tough, and i think that it’s only going to get tougher. so ask me how we’re doing again in another 10 days or so… but i’m definitely feeling the benefits… i’ll continue to write about my challenges and experiences like this throughout the month. 

      we’ve got some cool stuff coming up in the coming months that will directly benefit Haiti… which i know you have a BIG heart for. so stay tuned…


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they disfigure their faces

by Dan King time to read: 2 min