Fasting for the Right Purpose

Fasting is not about skipping meals to get God to bless and answer our prayers. Rather, it is about doing justice and mercy for needy and living rightly in the Lord. With such living, the blessing of the Lord is with us even without our fasting. In fact, doing charity is not optional but rather a natural attribute of the new life as children of God. 
What is the purpose of fasting? A common understanding seems to be to get God to answer our prayer by our show of seriousness through not eating or drinking for a fixed period.  Some consider fasting as a spiritual discipline and fasted for many days. Some even tell us how hard and how long they fast. However, Jesus warned us that fasting was not for show (Matthew 6:16-18) and we were to dress up as usually so that no one know we were fasting. The basic issue about fasting is not about how you fast but rather why you fast. What is the motivation for your fasting? Are you motivation right?

By going through the events where fasting was recorded in the Bible, we can find many reasons for fasting and they are usually for the benefits of others rather than self. In two passages, Zechariah 7 and Isaiah 58. true fasting is about doing justice and mercy and not about afflicting oneself! Below is a mind-map showing the different purposes of fasting:

Fasting is About Doing Justice and Mercy

The Meaning of Fasting from Isaiah 58

  • Fasting is NOT about afflict a man's soul nor body.
    Isa 58v5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
  • The Real Purpose and the Form of Fast is about Doing Justice and Mercy.
    6 “Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?—when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Here is the mind-map on Zechariah 7 on Fasting:

Doing Justice and Mercy is NOT an optional item but rather a command or an attribute of the new life as Sons of God.
  • James 1:27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Jesus associated with the needy and taking care of them is part of the work of the righeous.
  • Matthew 25v34Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, 36I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’37Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and cloth You? 39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
Hence, it is more important to examine the purpose for your fast rather than how you fast such as skipping one or more meals, going without certain kinds of food or even of water and for how long. Fast for the right reasons but better still, do the right things of justice and mercy and living rightly.

Lim Liat (c) 14 Jun 2016