Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should a Christian "Fast"?

What is Fasting?
The word “fast” or “to fast” or be “fasting” in its Scriptural usage means to go without food for a spiritual purpose. Although people sometimes fast for medical reasons, this is not what the Biblical practice is in reference to.  The Jewish people would often voluntarily fast for many different reasons.

When one examines the New Testament, they will notice there are no passages which command the Christian to fast, but it seems to be understood that one will fast occasionally. Note: The following verses:
(Luke 5:33-35)And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them,“You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”  
(Matthew 6:16) - Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” 
Right Reasons for Fasting
Although strictly a voluntary matter, there are some occasions in Scripture where fasting is assumed to be beneficial. 
  • David and his men mourned and fasted when Saul died (2 Samuel 1:12). 
  • Nehemiah fasted when sorrowful over the condition of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4)
  • When David’s child was sick he “fasted” (2 Sam. 12:16).
  • (1 Samuel 7:6) - “and they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah”
  • (Jonah 3:5) - “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them”. 
  • Moses fasted when God was giving him the law (Exodus 34:28).
  • Jesus fasted before being tempted by The Devil (Matthew 4:2).
  • The church fasted before sending Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3). (Jackson)
Wrong Reasons for Fasting
It is wrong for a person to fast for the purpose of being noticed or to show off how "spiritual" they are.
(Matthew 6:16-18) - “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Conclusion
It appears from Scripture that there are benefits to one fasting. Whether to fast or not, is a personal choice. When one chooses to fast, they should not use it as an opportunity to brag or boast in their own spirituality. If you have never taken the time to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, it may be good to set aside time to engage in this biblical activity.

Bibliography For further reading, see article by Wayne Jackson in the Christian Courier - http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/231-is-fasting-for-christians-today - This article is referenced in the above post.Image from - bonappetit.com