Where the world comes to study the Bible

Fasting is Feasting

What does the Bible teach about fasting? Reflecting on Matthew 6:16-18 and other passages, Richard Foster comments in Celebration of Discipline:

“It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive. To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion...Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained...Fasting reminds us that we are sustained by ‘every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4)...Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting!”

Fasting, like praying and giving, is a legitimate spiritual discipline to be practiced in private between a Christian and the Lord. How often we practice it is not prescribed, because that too is between the believer and Christ. When we desire to seek God’s face more than we want dinner, that will be the proper time to fast.

But as with other disciplines, fasting opens the door to showmanship rather than spirituality. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). While fasting, they went about with somber faces and disheveled appearances so that everyone would see (and praise) their piety.

Why did Jesus scorn this custom? Because He could see their hearts and their true motives. He also knew that fasting had been abused by the Jewish people in the past (see Isaiah 58:1-7).

What about fasting for us today? The issue is the same as it has been throughout this section (Matt. 6:1-18). How you fast depends on whom you want to impress. If your fast is for your spiritual benefit and God’s glory, no one else needs to applaud your commitment.

Today in the Word, January 19, 1997, p. 26