But you, when you fast, (Matthew 6:17)
I hear all sorts of opinions about fasting.
Many folks feel like it is an Old Testament practice. We are free, and all these religious activities are not for the Church.
Others take a legalistic approach to it, making it a requirement for true spirituality.
Both of these views are harmful; the former robs us of a wonderful asset. The later, the legalistic approach will bring you down in either of two ways – possibly both.
The first danger with a legalistic approach to anything in the faith is a sense of superiority, as though it is a badge to be worn. The other is a sense of failure; as though I can never measure up to what Christ is calling me to.
Today I simply want to make a couple brief observations, and in the upcoming days we will dig into the how and why behind this wonderful discipline.
My big point today is that Jesus (Mister Red Letter Himself) said when not if you fast.
[Ok – I will come clean here. I am not a Greek scholar but when I look at my reference tools (my favorite is http://www.blueletterbible.org, but I have lots of books too) I find that this word is actually combined into one word with the word fast. Young’s Literal Translation actually has it “But thou, fasting…” So the when is understood, but it is understood by virtually every English translator as a when not if connection.]
This, in part, is probably because the Jewish life included and required both feasts and fasts throughout the year. That alone tells me that fasting is probably a good idea. God built all sorts of great traditions into the lives of the Jews that we could benefit from.
If you need more convincing than that, you find fasting twice in the book of Acts. In Acts 13:1-3 and again in Acts 14:23.
Over the next several days I am going to put on my teachers hat and walk through 7 reasons to fast and 7 ways to fast.