In a previous blog post I gave twelve good reasons to fast, and I invite you to look at that post. In this post I want to bring to you the wrong reasons to fast, just to make sure we aren’t inclined to fast that way. Here are five wrong reasons to fast.
1. As a form of religion or ritual. Arthur Wallis, in his book, God’s Chosen Fast, notes that in the history of the church, what was at first a matter of custom, such as the practice of fasting each Wednesday and Friday, became a matter of obligation.12 Be careful not to let this happen to you. Fasting should always be a matter of love to God, never of religion or ritual.
2. To punish the body for sin. Some have believed that the body is evil, and in order to secure the purity of the soul we need to punish the body for its sinful desires. That belief is clearly in error. It is not the physical body that sins. The body, with all its desires is good. Sin comes from the heart and the mind.
Moreover, the Bible says that Jesus has already paid the penalty for your sins at the cross; and if you confess your sins (the sins of your heart) God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). That is why we do not need to punish ourselves—in mind or body. Thus the purpose of fasting is not to punish sin, but rather to help us control our bodily desires so we don’t sin.
3. To atone for sin and acquire merit. Fasting can never atone for sins or acquire any merit for God. Jesus already has atoned for sins; therefore no merits are required. Let us instead have a grateful and a thankful heart for all that Jesus has done for us.
4. As a matter of pride – to see how religious or disciplined I can be. We should fast to acquire discipline, but our discipline is to be used only to please God and to serve Him better. We should never fast to appear more religious or holy, but rather that people would see Jesus in me.
5. As a form of protest. Remember when we were toddlers, how we refused to eat in order to get what we wanted? Well, I would say that those who fast as a form of protest are just being childish. Their behavior isn’t God honoring at all!
12 Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast (Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania), 1999, p. 91.