Some things are more important than religious practices, and we need to focus on what matters most
I plan to fast one day a week. While I’m not as consistent as I would like, I follow through more often than I miss. Fasting is a spiritual act of worship for me. It better connects me with God and sharpens my prayers. I (mostly) anticipate my fasts.
Fasting provides me with spiritual focus – providing I fast for the right reasons. As such, I must fight against fasting for lessor, secondary benefits: saving time in meal preparation and eating, increased productivity throughout the day, and a means to keep my weight in check. Those may be good, but they miss the main point of fasting.
Sometimes I fast with the right perspective, and other times I don’t do so well. It seems Zechariah has my struggle in mind when he cites God asking, “Was it really for me that you fasted?” Yes, we can fast for God or we can fast for ourselves. The first brings glory to God and the second, detracts from God. If we’re going to fast – or engage in any spiritual discipline, for that matter – we need to do so for the right reasons. If we fast, may we do so appropriately.
Yet a few verses later Zechariah seems to offer a better alternative to fasting. Again quoting God, he says to “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”
When done right fasting honors God. However acting with justice, mercy, and compassion honors God and benefits others. While the first is good, I suspect the second is better.