Fast Forward


The Heart Behind Fasting

Jesus shares a parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. One, the Pharisee, had the appearance of spirituality as a religious leader, and one, the tax collector, worked for the corrupt government. Many tax collectors had a reputation for being swindlers and cheats. The Pharisee came before God, boasting of his accomplishments. Note that he tithed regularly and fasted twice a week! He was doing a lot more than many Christians I know! What is notable here is that even despite his regular practice of fasting, Jesus said that these actions didn’t justify the Pharisee before God. The Pharisee’s prayers, giving, and fasting were worthless because they didn’t come from a place of humility.

Fasting isn’t a feather in our cap or an item to check off on our “Things Good Christians Do” list. It can be a hollow, empty practice if not accompanied by a heart of humility before the Lord. Fasting doesn’t replace our faith in Jesus. When we abstain from food, social media, married sex, or whatever we choose to fast, we acknowledge that there are things in our life that can be more important to us than Jesus. We stand before God as the tax collector did, beating our chest and admitting that we need the mercy of God. Fasting is a statement that even on our best days, we are prone to rely on everything except God for sustenance and life. In our fast, we purposefully humble our hearts before the Lord and say, “You, God, are more important to me than anything—than the things I need, than the things my body craves.” Fasting must have the right heart and motive behind it, or it is a pointless exercise.

Take a few minutes and quiet yourself in God’s presence. Silence your phone, your mind, your distractions, and examine your heart. What is the motive of your fast? Why have you decided to set time aside to abstain from food or earthly pursuits? If your heart isn’t in the right place, take a moment and repent. Then, express to God how important He is—more important than anything you have a tendency to prioritize greater. Throughout your fast, if you feel your heart veering from humility, repeat this exercise as a spiritual course correction.