When a Hungry Stomach Is Good News

Today's Good News Friday Post was first published in Christianty Today's Sermon on the Mount devotional, The Blessed Way.

I was reared by my aunt, a professional caterer, who trained my palate to savor good meals. I’m thankful for the Bible’s approval of the healthy enjoyment of food. Whether celebratory feasts (Esther 9:20-22) or the communal table (Acts 2:46), Scripture shows Christians receiving and sharing food with glad and generous hearts. God welcomes our prayers for daily bread (Matthew 6:11). And yet He expects moments of fasting.

Matthew 6:16-18 carries both a negative and a positive command. Jesus’ earlier warnings in 6:1-15 are repeated as He cautions against pretentious fasting. Even so, He affirms the value of a fast shaped by one’s intimacy with God. The word “when” in 6:16 communicates expectation. Christians are directed to fast in the same way they are called to give and pray.

But fasting can seem miles apart from giving and praying. Voluntary abstinence from food (or other enjoyments) for the purpose of supplication can sound bizarre to a self-serving culture. According to Donald Whitney “one reason many fear fasting is the belief that it will make us appear unnecessarily strange.”[1] Yet christian peculiarity lies at the root of godly fasting.

If Matthew 6:16-18 directs Christian fasting then 9:14-15 offers a compelling reason. Explaining why His first disciples did not fast, Jesus states: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

Our Bridegroom’s kingdom has come, but not fully . Our communion meals anticipate a future feasting. Until then, the sting of sin makes us yearn for the consummation of Christ’ kingdom. We fast before the God of daily bread because our hunger for home surpasses the pleasure of the tastiest meal on earth.

[1] Whitney, Donald, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2014 reprint), 191.

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