“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.” (Matt. 6:16)
Expanded Passage: Matthew 6:16-18
No one likes to partake of a holiday feast while someone goes on about what they can’t or won’t eat or what their doctor said about their gallbladder. What benefit such information has for anyone other than the person sharing it is questionable. Should everyone else feel guilty for partaking? Should the person feel a superiority of self-control? Certainly, the person could simply pass the offending bowl to the next diner without saying a word. But then no one would know their sacrifice.
It’s become quite popular to combine dieting and fasting. Even if it works, fasting is not a way to lose weight. Fasting is a way to gain control of our body so that it can be used for God’s purposes. Outward religious acts are rarely beneficial to spiritual growth. The main reason Jesus wasn’t impressed with such things is that you can do them without having any transformation of the soul.
When we have given up food or used modern forms of fasting—like giving up smartphones and screen time—what have we replaced it with? Fasting should change you and the world around you. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke. . . . Is it not to share your food with the hungry? (58:6–7).
Take something from your daily schedule and add God in its place.
Rich Eckley is professor emeritus of theology at Houghton College (NY). He is an ordained Wesleyan minister and enjoys—with his wife Lynn—entertaining four active grandchildren.
© 2023 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.