Summary: Part three of a four part series
(Matthew 6:16-18 NASB) “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (17) “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face (18) so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Fast… To abstain from food
As Christians, we do a lot of things out of duty, ritual tradition.
Some of us give 10% of our income because we tithe. Some of us read our Bible and pray for a set 15 minutes to an hour every morning at 5 AM so that we fulfill our daily “in the Word” requirement. Some of us celebrate Ash Wednesday and Lenten every year by choosing to abstain from something like alcohol, smoking, red meats, soda, etc. It is very similar to the Israelites in Isaiah…
(Isaiah 58:1-12 MSG) "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back--a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Israel with their sins!
(2) They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people-- law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ’What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side.
(3) But they also complain, ’Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’ "Well, here’s why: "The bottom line on your ’fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. (4) You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. (5) Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility and to put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, GOD, would like?
(6) "This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. (7) What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. (8) Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. (9) Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ’Here I am.’ "If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, (10) if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. (11) I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places-- firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. (12) You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.
Biblical fasting is about you and God. It’s about the heart. It isn’t for others to see, but the Father to see. It’s about you growing deeper in devotion and not duty. It is to seek God’s direction for your life. It is to feed others, clothe others, and to free others from oppression.
Fasting is more than just ABSTAINING from food.
Fasting is about the HEART.
Fasting should be PRIVATE and not PUBLIC.
Fasting ties in with GIVING and PRAYING!
You’ve seen the commercials of starving children while you’re eating your pizza and wings. You say to yourself, “those poor kids” and then you turn the channel. All the while God is saying eat crackers for a day and send the $20 to feed the children in need. Abstain from going to Red Lobster so that your neighbor can have gas in their car to get to work. Cut the cable down to basic and see to it that you have nothing to watch so that you can help your elderly neighbor in need. That is the kind of fasting I want God says! Make it about Him and His kingdom and not about you and yours.