John Piper’s A Hunger for God constitutes a biblically-grounded and carefully-reasoned look at an often-misunderstood and often-neglected topic: fasting. Piper argues that fasting does indeed have a place in the modern Christian life. He makes the interesting point that fasting can be seen as the counterpart to (but in no way the enemy of) the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, we eat to remember what has been done for us in Christ. In fasting, we abstain to anticipate all that God has in store for us in Christ.
Piper’s discussion of Christ’s admonition against fasting to be seen by men was very well done and very balanced. He notes that “being seen fasting” is not necessarily the same as “fasting to be seen.” It is a matter of the heart and a matter of motivation. Furthermore, the biblical reality of corporate fasting helps us see that what Jesus was condemning was a self-righteous and shallow show put on before people in order to be thought of as holy.
Most of all, the book helpfully shows how the lesser gifts of God can blind us to God himself if we do not keep them in their proper proportion. Abstaining from these gifts for a season is one of the ways we keep them in place and do not allow them to become idols. I thought this argument was very well said and very convicting. Most of all, personal experience shows it to be true. We do not fast because food is evil. We fast because even good things can control us if we do not maintain a higher appetite for higher goods.
I also appreciated Piper’s point that the very first thing Jesus did when beginning His ministry was fast in the wilderness. He asks if this may not be a good idea for ministers today. No doubt it would be, as it would be for all believers today.
Fasting seems to go through cycles of unhealthy proccupation or downright neglect (as far as the attention of believers is concerned). It is one of those disciplines that begs for careful thought and a balanced approach. I am happy to say that Piper’s book represents one of the most balanced and careful considerations that I have ever seen.
Read this book. It really is excellent.