The ritual of fasting is not so popular in today’s Christian circles. Some do practice it but mostly we only hear of other religions doing it. There are different types of fasts; 1. Eating or drinking anything is forbidden, 2. Eating is forbidden but water is ok, 3. No food during sunlight and light colored broths are permitted and many more variations.
But why fast? Why would it be good to give up something that the body needs?
Some people do this in a variation to lose weight. Some do it to “detoxify”. Some do it involuntary because of poverty. Is there any benefit to it?
Sure, some doctors will attest that while fasting your body resets itself in digestion, chemicals, and other hormones some people should not attempt it; diabetics, people with eating disorders, young children. Those that do it for religious purposes do it not for any of these purposes.
Jesus was continuing the underlying theme that “we should be dependent on God for our needs.” Fasting removes our need for food and replaces it with an extreme need for God. The longer the fast the longer the need. Remember Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the desert. If you have ever fasted for any length of time you would know that the hardest part is the beginning. Your body is going into starvation mode and signals your brain to eat. Studies have shown that after about three days of no food (water is ok) your body response is self preservation. Which means that the hunger pangs go away. However, your appearance will show signs of starvation. Think of those commercials you may have seen that shows starving children in a foreign country. Jesus instead instructs us that we, WHEN we fast, should clean ourselves up and not let anyone know we are fasting. we are not to follow the example of the Hypocrites (Pharisees) by letting our faces frown and carrying on about how hungry we are. No! Jesus instructs us to hide the fact that we are fasting. The motivation behind the hypocrites was to show that they were BEING RELIGIOUS. That is their reward. But when we fast for the right motivation then we will be rewarded by the One who sees it.
Notice that the passage says WHEN we fast and not IF we fast. Although it is not a command it is one of those expected duties we have that is designed to realign our minds to God’s. The point of this whole lesson is that we MUST examine our motivation of our action toward God. Are they to be seen by man? Or are they to be seen by God?
Exercise for today:
The meaning behind the fast is to deny something that we depend on so our focus realigns with God. Some have said that we can fast not by giving up food but rather something that is a possible hindrance to our NEED for absolute dependence. Don’t confuse this to the concept of Lent! That is another discussion for another time.
Prayerfully consider a fast. Look up verses that have to do with fasting. Here are a few to get you started.
Acts 14:23, Matthew 9:14–15, Mark 2:18–20, Luke 5:33–39, Mark 9:29