- Matt 9:14-17
- The Question about Fasting
John the Baptist’s disciples get upset with Jesus’ disciples because they do not fast. It is because part of devout Jewish practice to fast twice a week and yet Christ practices something different. John’s disciples question Him about it. How can they be Jews yet they do not follow the Jewish customs and traditions. Perhaps John’s disciples think themselves as better than Christ and His disciples. Perhaps they do not understand.
Fasting is one of the three most important religious duties for the Jewish people along with prayer and almsgiving. To satisfy their inquiry Jesus gives a simple explanation that there’s a time for fasting and a time for feasting. He does not condemn their fasting but rather He makes it clear that the center of attention must be He, the bridegroom and not the legality of the law. Christ must be the center of our lives when we fast. He is the one for whom we fast. He is the one who brings joy to our lives.
One form of fasting that I know is fasting for inconvenience. The word ‘inconvenience’ is coming from the two Latin words: in, which means ‘not’ and convenire which means ‘to come together.’ And so, an inconvenience happens to us if things do not come together for us or is not easy for us because they do not go as we would like them to go. Like for example, we want to watch television for our favorite show but the picture is blurred. We want to go to mall together with our friends but a member of our family gets sick and needs our care and so on and so forth.
As a form of fasting, inconvenience can help us grow spiritually because, first, it can keep us humble. Every time that we are inconvenient, it makes us aware that we are not in control of our lives. That somebody, Jesus who is God, is more powerful than us and we have to depend on Him and to others too.
Second, it demands our love for others since it directly related to loving others. Like for instance, falling in line in a grocery store of the mall in order to pay the groceries that we are going to purchase is inconvenient for us. But we are doing this because we love our family.
Third is, we fast for others. When we fast our goal is not to have a smile on our face when we receive the good news of our promotion. We fast in order to make other people smile because of our fasting. We fast not because we want to reduce but because we want to multiply our love for others, that is, we may become more considerate, more loving, more thoughtful, more forgiving and more respectful. This is the kind of fasting that we do not for our own self but for others.
At the end James Packer in his Your Father Loves You (1986, p. 14) said that we tend to think of fasting as going without food. But we can fast from anything. If we love music and decide to miss a concert in order to spend time with God that is fasting. It is helpful to think of the parallel of human friendship. When friends need to be together, they will cancel all other activities in order to make that possible. There’s nothing magical about fasting. It’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with him, sorting out whatever is necessary, and you have cancelled the meal, party, concert, or whatever else you had planned to do in order to fulfill that priority.