Our desires and habits are not set in stone. Like many, I think a morning coffee is enjoyable, but I won’t go so far to say that I need it to function in the morning. Thirty days without it and I will probably be fine, because in reality it is a habit, not a need. This is true for many of our bodily cravings, although some are more powerful than others.
Ezra in Prayer, by Gustave Dore
As I prepare a sermon about Ezra, a priest who led Jews back to Jerusalem, I’m seeing how two simple words can change the way we think about fasting and physical pleasure.
The exile was over, and King Artaxerxes of Persia’s decree allowed the Jews to return, but they had to do so without government protection. Understandably, Ezra was afraid and sought God’s help:
“I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21).
Notice those the words in bold. Fasting is not an expression of humility before God, but according to Ezra it makes true humility possible.
Fasting enables us to acknowledge that our love for physical pleasure often exceeds our taking pleasure in God. Fasting reminds us that “life is more than food” (Luke 12:23), and that it is God who “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9).
Fasting makes us humble before God, and it also helps us differentiate between needs and bodily cravings.
About Corey Sharpe
Where do we get our beliefs?
Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology.
From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ.
Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles.
I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.