Do you fast?
Do you fast?
We will be talking about another pillar of Islam this week: the fast. Jesus had several things to say about fasting and whether it should be a spiritual practice for those who follow Him. Richard Foster has been a helpful instructor to me as I think about spiritual formation. Here is insightful instruction from his book, The Celebration of Discipline.
One issue that understandably concerns many people is whether or not Scripture makes fasting obligatory upon all Christians… One of the most helpful passages is Jesus’ startling teaching on this in the Sermon on the Mount.
Two factors bear directly on the issue at hand. First, his teaching on fasting is directly in the context of his teaching on giving and praying. It is as if there is an almost unconscious assumption that giving, praying, and fasting are all part of Christian devotion. We have no more reason to exclude fasting from the teaching than we do giving or praying. Second, Jesus states, “When you fast…” (Matt 6:16). He seems to make the assumption that people will fast, and is giving instruction on how to do it properly.
Having said this, however, we must realize that these words of Jesus do not constitute a command. Jesus was giving instruction on the proper exercise of a common practice of his day. He did not speak a work about whether it was a right practice or if it should be continued. So, although Jesus does not say “If you fast,” neither does he say “You must fast.” His word is, very simply, “when you fast.”
The other helpful passage from Jesus about fasting is the one we are talking about on Sunday. Come wrestle through it with us.
Do you fast?
Why not? For what end?
January 29, 2010 @ 12:53 pm
I haven’t in a long, long time. Sometimes I’ll think about doing it, but then realize that I’ve got coffee/lunch/dinner plans with someone and not want to upset those, or show up and be “that guy.” (“No, no. You go ahead. I’ll just sit here and watch you eat while I bask in my sanctimonious fastingness.”)
Fasting seemed more “in” when I was in college. Being a novice, I didn’t realize what a profound effect coffee would have on a body that hadn’t eaten in a couple days, so those two double mochas at the end of day three didn’t go over well. (And I’m not sure that double mochas are really in keeping with the spirit of a fast anyway!)
February 1, 2010 @ 3:33 pm
Fasting from food is a discipline that I’ve never seriously attempted. Unfortunately, a lack of food quickly turns me into “fascist Jeff” — someone not fun to be around. David indicated in his sermon that the fast merely reveals our true selves, you can make the appropriate judgments.
Other fasts seem to work quite well: abstaining from alcohol and electronic media are two that have been personally impacting. It’s cool that when fasting we aren’t only “doing without” but instead substituting that normal activity with prayer.