In some ways, The Lord’s Prayer is a bit of an aside to the main point Jesus is making. If you will recall, Jesus has been calling out the Scribes and Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy.
To drive the point home, Jesus gives three examples of spiritual practices: giving, praying, and fasting. These practices are supposed to be all about loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. But we can twist these practices into being about us. Then it’s not the love of God or neighbor that’s motivating us, but the love of ourselves.
Jesus is saying: “Beware. Be wary. Be warned. Don’t fall into the trap of religious hypocrisy.”
But notice He doesn’t say that those spiritual practices don’t matter. He says, “when you give, when you pray, when you fast.” Just because these practices can be misused doesn’t mean they don’t have a proper use. He wants us to follow Him as He gives us a new heart towards these spiritual practices.
So, in this passage about fasting, we’re going to see that fasting is a cultural blind spot, a biblical paradigm, and a helpful practice that we ought to embrace:
- Culture Blindspot: Fasting is historically practiced, and far more common around the world than in the US.
- Biblical Paradigm: Fasting is biblically expected. Fasting honors our creative design as physical and spiritual beings. In the beginning of Genesis, the devil used food to tempt us, and from that point on our bodies have ruled us and our appetites. Jesus is showing us what it means to be live from spiritual sustenance that God provides. Saying “no” to pressing physical appetites enables us to say “yes” to deeper spiritual nourishment.
- Helpful Practice: Fasting is spiritually beneficial for three reasons: it helps us attend to our soul; it helps us starve the flesh; and helps us feast on God.
Fasting isn’t about saying “no” to the physical but saying “yes” to the spiritual. Far too often we live as if the physical is all there is. Fasting reminds us that we are more real than just our bodies. The Holy Spirit’s job is to develop new desires and teach you to walk in Him. Fasting teaches us to be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
Fasting isn’t about appetite suppression, it is about cultivating our appetites for the things of God, where we feast on the things of the Lord.
Takeaway: Fasting is feasting on God. Just do it!
Living The Message episode: https://youtu.be/c_yemjdnl6M