Bible Question:

What does fasting include? Is fasting limited to just food or can it include other things such as not buying new clothes, avoiding the television, movies, etc. Is this biblical? What does the Bible mean when it refers to fasting.

Bible Answer:

Biblical fasting is about avoiding food and even water. A study in the Sermon on the Mount looks at what is included in biblical fasting. Fasting is about denying oneself food for some period of time. In the book of Esther, we discover that fasting sometimes included the denial of water. In Esther 4:16, Esther encouraged her fellow Jews to go with out water for three days.

Biblical fasting does not include avoiding television or refusing to buy new clothes for awhile. There is nothing wrong with denying ourselves these things. In fact, some of us, maybe all of us should deny ourselves many things we think are necessary. Whatever we do, we must remember that God is more interested in our heart and not just our behavior. He is interested in both. In Isaiah some folks were complaining about the benefits of their fasting.

“Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (NIV) Isaiah 58:3

And God responds with,

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (NIV) Isaiah 58:3-7


God is not changing the meaning of fasting. He is telling what is more important. It is a compassionate heart. Fasting is an act of humility of the soul when done correctly. These folks were arrogant in heart and unloving. God desires that we have a humble and compassionate heart. This we desire, Holy Spirit! Amen.

Suggested Links:

Bible Question: Is fasting going without food?
Can a person make love while fasting?
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When fasting, how often do you pray?
Alms, prayer, and fasting