Tuesday, April 21, 2015
She sat down at a table next to ours in a local eatery. She joined two women who were mostly finished with their soup and salad. The volume of the next-to-our-table conversation made it impossible to ignore. The late arrival quickly announced she was not eating. "I'm fasting," was her first comment. "Why?" she was asked by her two eating companions. "I need to lose a few pounds," was the answer. And for the next ten minutes, the one fasting basked in accolades like, "You don't look like you need to lose weight," or, "I wish I could be so disciplined. The one not eating food was sure enjoying eating all the praise!
It is not unusual for folks to use the Biblical word, "fasting" when "dieting" would be a better choice. The young woman who spoke was not trying to promote some theological controversy; she was simply speaking the language of today's secular culture. Still, this preacher's ears were rebelling at what was being proclaimed. The Bible is clear that fasting is not about weight control, but about management of the soul. It is not a physical discipline, but a spiritual one. And since Jesus' words in Matthew's gospel instruct fasting to be done in secret with assurances that the Father in heaven who see what is done in secret will reward, those who talk about their "fasting' in such a way as to receive the accolades of their listeners have received all the rewards they are going to receive.
At its core fasting is a spiritual discipline which results in spiritual blessings. It is something of ourselves being offered to God. A few pounds may well be lost as an indirect result of fasting, but the important thing which can really be lost is the unbearable weight of an ego that has claimed too great a hold on our living. Fasting puts us into that relationship with God where such transforming inner soul work can be done, not by us, but by the Father in heaven.