Sometimes we fast so others can feast. Let me guess… fasting brings to mind words like hungry, painful, hard, challenging, self-denial. Maybe you assume it’s not for you. Fasting is intentionally abstaining from one thing in order to place a special focus on something else. It might mean skipping a meal or two if you haven’t experienced hunger in a while. Or maybe you’ve been in a lean season and know too well the reality of hunger.
If fasting involves denial, it is for the purpose of creating space—the opportunity for connection with God and others. It often also results in an overflow of the things we don’t consume… be it food, money, or time… so we can share with others. We give up our leisure to help a widow with yard work. We turn away from the persistent distraction of entertainment for a time so we can pay attention to the ache of a friend’s emotional wounds or the chafing of spiritual chains in a family member’s life. Yes, we might even empty our pantry or, better yet, fill our grocery cart with extras to share. We clean our closets and pass along that outfit we thought we’d better hold onto, those shoes that were worn once. We cut back on the expensive meals out and a coffee stop or two to grab a gift card for someone walking through loss.
Don’t miss God’s reminder in today’s text. He speaks to His people who are rigorously observing fasts from food and drink, but who have also plunged headlong into missing the point of all of it. He wants His people to always be aware that the sacrifice of observing a time of fasting isn’t about getting extra credit with Him or swelling up with pride at our spiritual acrobatics. He isn’t interested in our performance—He wants more important things to be formed in us: mercy, kindness, humility, prayerfulness.
We have so much: prayer, time, food, clothing, money, and more. God loves you and doesn’t need you to sacrifice to get on His good side. Ask Him to show you creative ways to bring joy to Him by bringing joy to others through generosity. And watch Him pour joy right back into you.