“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16–18 NLT)
During his junior and senior years of high school, comedian Gary Gulman was six-and-a-half-feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds. He towered over the guys on the football team, most of whom were under six foot. He caught the attention of the football coaches, who convinced him to join the team and helped him train all summer before his senior year. As Gulman tells it, his coaches trained him and helped him put on enough muscle weight to be beyond intimidating, but in reality he was a guy who collected stuffed animals and still slept with his baby blankie every night; he was a quiet, lonely kid who was bullied in high school and never had a fraction of the drive needed to play football on any sort of competitive level. Gulman played football for his senior year of high school and his freshman year of college, but at every practice and every game all he wanted to do was go back to his room to sleep and cry. The persona he built as a football player was not who he really was; he said all of the muscle he built in training, and the uniform he wore at games, was just a costume he put on for the adults in his life.
Similar to how Jesus instructs us to pray in Matthew 6:5–6, he again tells us that there should be nothing performative about our religious practices. God never wants us to dress up our faith or our spiritual disciplines to show off or make ourselves look better. This means that when we fast, we should not display our hunger for the people around us as if to flaunt that we are fasting. Applying this idea more widely, God is not interested in how successfully we can wear our spiritual costumes or masks; he wants us to be authentic and honest – with him, with others, and with ourselves.
Consider the ways in which your faith is performative in nature rather than authentic, then take steps to set aside the costumes and masks to become the person God made you to be.