About Fasting

“You know, don’t you, that I’m the One who emptied your pantries and cleaned out your cupboards, who left you hungry and standing in the bread lines?  But you never got hungry for me.  You continued to ignore me.” 

                                                                       Amos 4:6 (The Message/Remix)

Upon a first reading of this text, we can certainly see a possible interpretation as having something to do with trials.  As God “empties” our pantries and cupboards, He leaves us empty and without.  The taking away of provisions and blessings is intentional in order for us to “realize” our utter dependency on God.  

I want to suggest an alternative reading, though.  I’d like to suggest that this is a passage about fasting.  Now, I’m not inclined to fast and I would venture to believe that most of us aren’t by nature.    

Yet, I see God telling me through this portion of Scripture to emulate Him and to make the emptying out of my own pantry & cupboard, an intentional & daily discipline in my life.  The intended purpose is to remind myself of the One who genuinely provides everything in my life - no exceptions – no matter what.    

What about hunger?

The word “hunger” most often prompts us to consider the physiological dimensions of the need.  However, there is psycho-emotional, spiritual & relational hunger caused by a life devoid of purpose and meaning.  It is paramount for each of us to recognize how our hunger (whether caused by spiritual, emotional, physiological and/or psychological needs) substantially dictates our actions.  This is especially true as we seek to remove the discomfort, pangs or pain associated with hunger.    

Clark Hull suggested a theory which has a significant lesson for us to learn as Christians.  The Drive Reduction Theory, as he coined the term, suggests that we act in accordance to the needs are facing.  We are driven by our needs to temporarily satisfy (reduce) whatever the “hunger” is in our lives – be it sexual, financial, relational or spiritual. 

You can see the danger in living a life driven toward providing only conditional satisfaction to the presently insatiable areas of our lives.  Here is where idolatry comes in.  In essence, “junk food” and “poor eating habits” come in.  Here is where persistent hunger (in either physiological or psychological form) drives us to sinful measures sometimes due to uncontrollable urges and sometimes due to desperate circumstances.  However we arrive at this point in our lives, hunger determines our actions and can ultimately lead us to ignore God as we come to believe that He has failed to satisfy any or all our needs.    

Malnourished Churchianity

In Amos’ lifetime, back in the day (c. 755 BC), God called him to rally against the abuses of religion as it was used to abuse God’s people.  Religion was often used (and continues to be, I’m afraid) to undermine, exploit and oppress the people of God.  Of course, this led to people falling away and growing ever more obstinate and incredulous toward the right relationship God desired (and commanded) to have with the people of Judah and Israel.

Although the divine mandate is tragically distorted, we remain hungry for some kind of spiritual fulfillment.  In the “apparent” absence of God in our lives, we are still going to take necessary action destined to satisfy the void causing us pain, discomfort and in severe cases, malnourishment, famine, even death.  This is where counterfeit religiosity and spirituality, like so many diets out there, never live up to there intended purposes.  And yet, the diet industry is a booming one as is religion, spirituality and self-help markets.         

There are many sisters & brothers hungering for God or for something to satisfy their unquenchable thirst and insatiable hunger for a new life, healing, peace, restoration, deliverance, change and for new opportunities.  There is an unprecedented epidemic of malnourished or famished members of the Body of Christ sitting in so many of our pews across America or already having “given up” on the Church altogether.    

These children of God are still subject to hunger for something bigger, something greater.  Ironically, they find themselves unable to accept that God’s insatiable hunger for relationship with His creation and especially, for each and every one of His children, also include each and every one of them, too. 

Often these individuals are driven toward all manner of destructive actions against themselves and/or toward one another.  As they continue down a spiral of unending despair, anger, shame, guilt, angst and/or confusion, just to name a few of the countless feelings which can overshadow and eventually take our lives hostage, their hunger, sadly enough, will more than likely be for things other than God.  Although we will still desire to be satisfied, fulfilled and ultimately digest something that will enliven, invigorate and nourish our spirit, malnourished people living within malnourished Churchianity will be encouraged to choose from a smorgasbord of spiritual options rather than to nurture a lifelong hunger for the only true bread and for living water.                 

So, what about Fasting?

Amos 4:6 challenges us, although I believe it commands us, to fast from all the things that keep us from God.  All too often we have harbor excuses for not praying, reading scripture, participating in some kind of Christian community and for not pursuing God with our entire being.  Ironically, we’ll fast from prayer, so we slowly loose our connection to God and we begin to rely more on our control and on ourselves. We’ll fast from scripture, so the narratives of salvation history seem to grow dim as we substitute those narratives with stories that reveal the cynical, vain and worldly dimensions of this shadow world.  We’ll fast from community and we experience loneliness, anxiety and depression.  We’ll fast from God and we fall for the enemy’s deception that this life is without meaning, purpose and we better get ours before someone else does.  Ultimately, we will fast from joy, hope and from genuine love.

To purposely keep ourselves for a time from individuals or things that keep us from God will reveal to us how much we are dependent on everything but God.  In experiencing this state of emptying out, we can begin the process of being filled by the Spirit of God.  The emptying out our pantries and cupboards removes all manner of clutter which keeps us from living Christ-centered lives.

It isn’t that we are to fast choosing those items which contend for the path of least resistance.  We are to intentionally choose those idols which cause us to choose between God and them.  We when fast from food, the Internet, iPods or from people, we are essentially seeking to reconfigure our lives and to put all things under God’s Christ.  In that way, when we do finally come back to turning our computers on or calling a friend, we now do so acknowledging the blessing, but not without recognizing the power our hunger and desires have over us.  We, therefore, fast from things that enslave us so that we may live as free people.  Free from all things that challenge our faithfulness for our first love, which is Christ. 

The purpose of emptying out ourselves is to recognizing how easily we can become subject to our ego, desires, ambitions, pride, shame, guilt, pain and other needs, hurts or “dreams”.  It is a daily reminder of our sinful and unfaithful predisposition being willingly subjected, in humility and obedience, under the sovereignty of God.        

Finally, there’s a profound lesson for us to learn from this – our dependency is not fully on God.  We are double minded and ignore the God who is here, there and everywhere; the God who willingly and lovingly provides everything – even the bread of life.         


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