Sun 21 Feb In a land of fast food and "I want it now" mentality, fasting is an outmoded practice reserved for monks living in austerity. Or so we think! This was not the situation in the first century when Jesus spoke on this subject to His would be followers. The Jews fasted at various times during the week (Luke 18:12). There was an expectation Jesus' followers would fast.
We know people in the Old Testament fasted. There was at least one fast where it is implied all participated. This was in association with the Day of Atonement where they were to deny themselves (Leviticus 16:31).
However, like other religious practices of giving and praying, Jesus encouraged them to examine their motivation for fasting. In the times of Isaiah, the people thought they could gain God's favor by fasting without altering their behaviour. "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please" (Isaiah 58:3). When Jesus walked in Jerusalem in the 1st century, the religious leaders fasted in such a way so as to gain the praise of their fellow men and women. It had little to do with being right with God.
Jesus encouraged His own followers to examine their motivation for fasting. The disciples did not fast while they had Jesus with them, but when He left they did (Matthew 9:14-15). The early church fasted and prayed to seek the Lord's will (Acts 13:2-3).
Our motivation is something we ought to examine in every aspect of our lives. Why am I doing this? Is it borne out of my love for God and what He has done? Will this draw me closer to Christ? Am I seeking to please Him and give Him all the glory and honour?