The Truth about Fasting!
“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.” —Matthew 6:16-18
It was a Jewish custom to anoint yourself with olive oil, and in Jesus' day, it was apparently customary to anoint the heads of your guests, also (Lk. 7:46). At times, expensive ointment or perfumes were used in this personal anointing.
A lack of having one's head anointed was associated with mourning or sorrow. Jesus was saying that there should be no external sign of fasting or sorrow. It should be done secretly to the Lord to receive a full reward.
In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul said that abstinence from the physical relationship in marriage for the purpose of fasting should not be done without the consent of one's spouse. So a fast does not always have to be totally secretive to be productive.
Rather, Jesus is once again dealing with the motives behind our actions. The fast must be directed toward God and not done so others can see you and think “how holy you are.”
Fasting accomplishes many things:
- One of the greatest benefits of fasting is that through denying the lust of the flesh, the spirit man gains dominance.
- Fasting was always used as a means of seeking God to the exclusion of all else.
- Fasting does not cast out demons, but it does cast out unbelief.
Therefore, fasting is beneficial to every aspect of the Christian life.
The real virtue of a fast is in humbling ourselves through self-denial, and it can be accomplished through ways other than total abstinence. Partial fasts can be beneficial, as well as fasts of our time or pleasures. However, because our appetite for food is one of our strongest drives, fasting from food seems to get the job done the quickest!
Fasting should be a much more important part of seeking God. Fasting doesn’t change God, but it will change you.
Endeavor to live a fasted lifestyle, whether it is a denial of yourself through food or denial of your own desires.
Exalt Jesus today. Put Him first in everything you do!