What is Fasting?
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18
I’m working through the sermon on the mount, so now is time for me to say something about fasting, but that is difficult, as I just can’t see what fasting is about.
Jesus talks about how not to give, how not to pray and how not to fast and also how we should be doing these things. The thing is he says when you give, when you pray and when you fast. That is when as if he expected people to do it. The thing is I don’t understand why.
I see things which link prayer and fasting, there are even books which link them. But the proximity in the Sermon on the Mount does not mean they are that closely linked, unless a similar link is claimed to link prayer and giving. I don’t see the link, it looks more like Jesus is talking about three different aspects of spirituality.
But the answer to the problem of wrong fasting is the same as for the others: Do not make a show of it, do it privately.
Isaiah said this:
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,and a day acceptable to the Lord
It seems there is a connection here between fasting and humility. And this is the negative part because somehow a fast was being used to humble other people and make yourself look good, though the opposite of what it should be. So Isaiah continues:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
Which looks life fasting has more in common with the political hunger strike than with what we understand as spiritual.
But like I said earlier, I do not understand the purpose of fasting.