“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Is fasting still a regular practice in the churches across the world? Yes and no. The truth is fasting isn’t the most natural thing in the world. It’s why it is so powerful…and so neglected. In some contexts I’ve been in fasting was a rare oddity among the people, and then in another fellowship of believers fasting was commonplace and even 40 day fasts were normal (done wisely).
“Fasting is feasting” they say. It’s true. It’s a time to really separate ourselves unto the Lord and seek him more clearly.
And yet there are two vices that attack the Christian life like piranhas–self-pity and self-righteousness. And this is very much the case with fasting.
Jesus’ once again teaches that the disciplines of the Christian faith are for the secret places. Sort of like a secret rendezvous. But prayer and fasting that was just for show? Empty. Perhaps even contemptible.
Jesus teaches that when you fast, make it as unobvious as you can–wash your hair, wash your face and look normal. Keep your secret with God.
Thoughts on Fasting
- Just as much as when Jesus says, “When you pray,” we should also remember it is “When you fast.” It’s a practice worth strengthening in our Christian culture, so that we do just that, create a culture of meeting with God through the practice of fasting.
- Fasting is for the secret places. It’s not something we can hide from our families and from those who extend to us dinner invitations. For these situations it’s valid to say something rather than break our fast. But in general fasting should be kept as quiet as possible.
- Just because we may not fast regularly, does not mean that self-pity and self-righteousness are still not in our hearts. This snake can be lurking in the shadows ready to entice all of our hearts.
- God rewards. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (v. 18). I’m not so sure it’s the practice of fasting that he rewards as much as it is our humility.
- Our Father is unseen. Perhaps that is his model for us. The Father could be flashy, fearful and downright fierce in his love and his judgments. But he himself remains unseen and unseen practice meets unseen Father in the unseen places.
Perhaps for most of us just the practice of fasting to reconnect with God is something we need to renew. But in the process, it’s always good to gut-check our motives.