Social Media and Fasting

So last week our church held a whole church day of prayer and fasting.  Without even thinking I put up a reminder on my facebook and twitter to those in the church so they wouldn’t forget to take part (I often plan to fast and then go on autopilot, not realising it was a fasting day until after I have polished off my bowl of cereal….).

It brought up some great comments as to whether fasting and social media really do work together.  My friend Kiri from Wonderfully Random wisely said that most of the passages in the bible that teach on fasting talk about doing it in private, hiding the fact that you are doing it, so that your reward will be from God and not from people feeling sorry for you or saying you are doing a great thing. 

When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well. Matthew 6:16-18 MSG

But then when I read through the bible it does talk about various characters fasting, so it was obviously known and public that they were, they weren’t hiding it.  Here are just a few example talked about:

Jesus – fasted in the desert for 40 days and people knew about it 
Esther – called for a three day fast for the WHOLE city so they would definitely have all known about it (Esther 4:16)
Hannah – wept and fasted because she couldn’t have a child – I’m pretty sure people knew about this (1 Samuel 1:7-8)
Paul – drank and ate nothing whilst he was blinded and his friends were there with him (Acts 9:9)

So I guess my main observation and question would be this – what are your motives for posting about it on social media?  If your reasoning is so that you can get comments of sympathy and have a little “online pity party” then don’t bother – that is just the same as the Pharisees making themselves look ill whilst fasted so that people knew and congratulated them.  But if your reasoning is to encourage others by being an example to them, to get people to take part or try out fasting for the first time or even just to remind people that we are doing a group fast together like Esther did, then I think that is ok.

People in the bible did share that they were fasting with others, but they didn’t make a big deal out of it.  They shared to get friends to gather round and join them in it, they shared so that others might see some “best practice” as to how to fast and they shared it so that they could stand together and petition God with something big that He needed to take notice of.  So I think that in this new age where social media is our way of sharing that this is an acceptable way of doing this, but remember – sometimes it is important to do things privately just between you and God.  Just as we don’t share every intimate detail of our marriages on facebook, so we shouldn’t share every intimate detail of our relationship with our Father God.

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