FASTING - With right motives

Psalm 63:1 | O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

Matthew 6:16-18 | “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

1 Samuel 15:22 | But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

Isaiah 58:1-7 | “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

  1. Why might we be tempted to tell others about our fasting? Why is important to God that we keep our fasting private?  
  2. Fasting can be considered sacrifice. While we are commanded to sacrifice to God, 1st Samuel shows us that obedience is even more important. What would fasting without obedience look like? Do you think any amount of fasting can make up for unrepentant sin in our lives? Why or why not?
  3. What is wrong with the motives of the people fasting in Isaiah 58:3?
  4. In Isaiah, God contrasts fasting to receive with fasting to give/serve. Which of these types of fasting have you practiced in the past?  
  5. How can you fast to give/serve others? (What could you give up so that someone else’s needs could be met?)
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