Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. –James 1:10 (CEB)
While preparing an evening meal of kale salad, creamy tomato soup, and cheesy Italian bread, I wipe up an herb-covered bread crumb from the cutting board with my finger and pop it into my mouth. As I taste hints of butter, garlic, and oregano, I anticipate how wonderful this meal will be… Then a realization interrupts my moment of sheer food-inspired joy, “Oh no! I’m eating!”
During Lent this year, I am fasting from food one day a week, from the time after dinner on Monday until dinner on Tuesday evening, just after the sun sets. My husband and I have been doing this practice together for three years now. It’s helpful to have a companion in this challenging spiritual discipline.
Choosing to fast is... a way of identifying with people who go hungry without choice.
Fasting is many things. It is a way of remembering our humanity, our reliance on God and God’s creation for sustenance. It is a way of living simply, using less resources, having extra to share with others. It is a way of being reminded to pray. When our hunger bothers us, we can remember that Jesus was tempted to satisfy his own hunger in the wilderness, yet he chose to deny himself and satisfy the hunger of everyone.
Choosing to fast is also a way of identifying with people who go hungry without choice. Throughout my day of fasting, and especially as I’m cooking the meal on which Tyler and I will break the fast, I am hyper-aware of my wealth. We are not a wealthy household by American standards, but we have never been unsure of our next meal. Even in a financial emergency, we would have friends, family, and a church on whom we could rely for help. It is not natural for us to not eat.
That in itself is not wrong, but it does present a challenge. As I work from home in a house full of snacks or go to an office where coworkers frequently offer to share food, I am tempted to rely on myself and my resources for sustenance. I easily forget Jesus’ response, that humanity doesn’t live on bread alone, but on the word of God. I don’t want to pray. I just want to eat what’s available to me.
When there is no next meal in sight, what is there to do but pray?
This is why the poor should celebrate their high status. God sustains those who are poor, and they know it. When there is no next meal in sight, what is there to do but pray? What is there but to trust that when even the fields are clothed in lilies, and the sparrows have their food, God will make provision for us also?
For growing my own trust, I practice having-not. As I write this, it’s only week two of Lent. I remember that hunger doesn’t become comfortable or easy, but I trust that submitting to this discipline a few more times will at least soften my heart into a more prayerful posture in the coming weeks.
Questions for thought and discussion:
- Do you consider yourself a poor or a wealthy person? How do you measure your status?
- Have you practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting? What does it mean to you?
- If you had some extra resources because of a fast—food, money, time—what would you do with them?