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When you fast August 15, 2010

Posted by daniel ayad in Biblical.
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Fasting today is not fully accepted among the Christian churches. Probably the majority of churches today, or certainly at least many churches, do not fast or fast to a lower degree than in the past. Some people appear to neglect fasting for a variety of reasons. I am not here to debate the spirituality of fasting, or explain the necessity of fasting in any great detail, but reflect on the interesting passage below.  

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6: 16-18) 

The Lord Jesus Christ says “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matt 6:16).

Notice He says immediately when you fast. The choice of words is critical here, He did not say if you fast, but rather when you fast. It appears that not fasting does not even cross the mind of the Lord. He does not think twice about this practice and says succinctly and clearly when you fast.

The Lord assumes the first step, by saying when you fast. He appears to be only interested in describing the practice of fasting, rather than describing if you fast. In fact He is so confident in the necessity of fasting that He repeats the saying when you fast in the very next verse. I think it is quite significant that He would assume the fasting practice being applied.

Thus it is clear: fasting is a given rule, there are no exceptions, circumstances, or any valid reason that a person can choose not to fast.

When we fast let us not get carried away and be like the hypocrites. St John Chrysostom says: “I know some; well-actually I know many-who, even while neglecting to fast, yet still wear the garments of those who fast. They cloak themselves with a false exoneration worse than their actual sin.”

Again there are no two ways about it, you cannot justify neglecting to fast by pretending or wearing the garments of those who fast. You physically must fast.

John Chrysostom says further “I do this,” they say, “so that I might not offend the many [who are expecting me to fast].” What are you saying? The divine law commands this [fasting], and yet you say you are causing “offense” by obeying? If you practice the inward fast you cause offense, but if you do not fast inwardly [but make a show of fasting outwardly], then quite the opposite, you are not causing offense-is there anything more foolish than this?
Why don’t you stop being worse than the hypocrites [you criticise], doubling your own hypocrisy, and instead consider to what extremes this great evil leads? Do you feel any shame now, as we look at the emphasis [of the passage] before us? For Jesus not only says that they put on appearances, but He levels [an even more] vehement attack against them when He says, “They disfigure their faces.”


Fasting is a command from God. Christ Himself fasted and spoke about the spirituality of fasting. If we neglect this command to fast than we put ourselves in the false position of being better than Him. Let us remember the words when we fast for what it really means, simply and clearly.

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