What is Fast Living?

September 1st, 2011

The end of extreme poverty will require deep social resolve. Guiding the three sectors of society (government, business, and church) depends on our collective will and culture-shaping currents. God wants to put an end to the preventable suffering and death caused by extreme poverty. The question is what do we want? How bad do we want it?

What causes a soul to decide that the status quo is intolerable, compelling it to embark on a journey to ease its pain even when the road is uncertain and the destination is hard to imagine? Hunger. The desires of the heart are hunger pains that drive our action.

Jesus didn’t come to make sure we wouldn’t be hungry—he came to make sure we were hungry for the right things. When we abide in Christ, our desires are reoriented to align with his.

In describing the biblical foundation and purposes behind fasting, Scot McKnight writes, “The first companion of fasting is to give to the poor, or more generally to pursue justice.” The connection between fasting and acts of compassion has been strong in Christian practice since the beginning of the movement. An early Christian writing, The Shepherd of Hermas, advises Christians, “Estimate the cost of the food you would have eaten on that day and give that amount to a widow or orphan or someone in need.” Augustine counsels, “Your distress will profit you if you afford comfort to others.”

The fast must be chosen. How do you make yourself hungry? Don’t eat. That’s not an easy thing to do, but two things make it easier. First, the fast is never about the food you aren’t eating—it’s about the reason you aren’t eating it. Second, it’s easier to fast within a community of committed friends. Going without food is, in a small way, an act of solidarity with the poor—feeling what they feel shapes our spirit. And it can help make poverty personal.

Fasting doesn’t require that we give up the good thing permanently. It is a temporary abstinence from a good thing for the sake of something great. Life is full of good things.

But it’s also full of great opportunities. I’m confident that when I die, I won’t look back and wish I had played a few more rounds of golf. I’m trying to make sure I don’t look back and regret missing those great opportunities. I want to look back and see that I temporarily gave up some good things for the sake of the great things. Call it fast living.

It’s time to become good at being hungry.


This article is excerpted from Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty, by Scott C. Todd. Learn more about the Fast Living movement at www.live58.org.

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