The Christian and Fasting
Pastor Scott Williams
Introduction: Once again, Jesus takes aim at the sin of hypocrisy; doing acts of righteousness in order to gain the approval of others rather than for the approval of the Lord. Like he did with charitable giving and prayer, Jesus exposes the smug self-righteousness of the Pharisees who would put on gloomy faces so that their piety could be seen by all. However, is Jesus doing more that confronting their self-righteousness? Is he establishing fasting as a normative practice that should characterize his followers?
Questions for Discussion & Discovery
1. What has been your general experience with fasting? Have you done it before and if so, what was that experience like?
2. Read 2 Samuel 12:16-18, Esther 4:3 and 4:16, Jonah 3:6-10. What do these passages tell you about when and why fasting took place?
3. How does Matthew 9:14-17 point to the fact Jesus is de-emphasizing the importance of regular and habitual times of fasting?
4. What are some other spiritual disciplines that if we are not careful can become actions that feed our own self-righteousness rather than actions that demonstrate genuine faith?
5. Given this passage and the others that you read, what life circumstances best describe times when a follower of Christ would practice a fast?
1. “Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way.” – Richard Foster
2. 01. True worship glorifies God, not those who are intending to seek him.
3. 02. Fasting seems to be intentionally de-emphasized as the regular pattern of spiritual growth for followers of Christ.
4. “The twice repeated, ‘when you fast’ indicates to most commentators that Matthew’s Jesus wants fasting. But it should be stressed that, except for this paragraph, Jesus did not make fasting a topic of his teaching. There is no reference to fasting in Paul’s Letters.” – Fredrick Bruner
5. 03. Fasting is left up to the discretion of the believer, especially during times of suffering or serious spiritual concern.
6. “In a time of joy, fasting would be unnatural, and could not express a genuine feeling. But persons who are in great distress are naturally inclined to abstain from eating. Fasting can deepen those impulses toward worship and devout meditation.” – John Broadus