“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their
reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in
secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Why do we fast? As we get real close to Lent, why do we abstain from something? Wesley outlines the biblical background to fasting looking at Moses, Jehosophat, Daniel and Nehemiah in the Old Testament and of course the example of Jesus in the New Testament. He looks at the traditions of the gentiles and Jews with regard fasting
He then looks at the reasons that people of his day chose to fast and of Christians throughout the ages. Do we abstain to look good in the eyes of others? Do we abstain for selfish reasons? And for how long do we abstain or fast?
I was speaking to a guy on Thursday who was taking part in a sponsored slim during Lent for his health. Is there a significance in attaching it to Lent? What is Lent for in the church calendar in this post modern society? Is there still a place for a few weeks of abstinence?
Some people choose to eat particularly plain food during Lent, sustenance for the body but not for the tastebuds. People throughout the ages have thrust their idea of plain diet on those under their control whether sailors on ships, children in orphanages or those incarcerated and they have done it in the name of religion.
When we approach a fast we have to look at our motives. Are we being directed by God to do this? Some people should think carefully about beginning a period of abstinence due to health reasons.
There are some of us who due to our past relationship with food must be extremely cautious before engaging in a fast of any length lest past obsessions rise up. This year there are a whole gamut of studies to follow that encourage generosity rather than abstinence. This suits the world in which we live, where to do without is seen as unacceptable.
So in considering a fast – it should be done prayerfully, seeking the Lord’s guidance. It should be done sensibly so as our health is not adversely affected and thirdly we should consider our motives – is it to seek a thin place or is it vanity? And whatever we decide we are to do it above all in secret.