May 25, 2020 • Written by Indigo Sahara
Listen, “hate” is a strong word. I use it sparingly – in writing, anyway. But, this whole “social media fast” trend has got me fed up (or should I say, passionate) enough to use it.
Fasting from social media seems totally peachy and admirable from a single glance, but it is imperative that the root desires of the fast are internally investigated. What is the purpose of fasting to begin with? Why do we want to fast? Why do we so deeply feel the need to fast from social media specifically?
1. We have distorted the meaning of “fast.”
Before we can actually reach any sort of fast-desire diagnosis, we need to be able to verbally express the purpose of fasting. Let’s take a look at some Scripture:
“So we fasted and petitioned our God about this… (Ezra 8:23, NIV).
“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’” (Joel 2:12, NIV).
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting…” (Acts 13:2, NIV).
“So after they had fasted and prayed…” (Acts 13:3, NIV).
Notice: prayer, petition, worship and grief all come hand-in-hand with fasting. The bottom line is that we, Christians, are expected to fast just as we are expected to pray, take part in Christian fellowship, praise in song and study the Word. The purpose of fasting is not to give you “more time to focus on God.” We fast in addition to reading the Word. We fast because we are already focusing on God and His will. We fast out of humility and reverence.
2. We don’t admit that we’re addicted, but we’re quick to point out when others are.
Our very own AAC pastor and counselor, Rev. Mark Tegtmeier, worded it well: “When we fast, we are saying no to the desires of our flesh.” What are the desires of our flesh? Food, water, sex, joy…
The “desires of our flesh” resemble our fundamental basic needs. This is why fasting is traditionally associated with food. When we fast from food out of reverence for God, we’re saying, “God, I’m really hungry, but I know that you will sustain me. I don’t need food when I have you, the One who created me and my body’s innate desire to eat.”
While of course we can fast from other earthly materials, such as social media, are we really giving it up for God? Or are we giving it up for ourselves? Maybe, we know we’re addicted deep down, but we claim to be fasting in efforts to disguise our addiction from fellow believers.
Would you say that a recovering alcoholic is “fasting alcohol”? Probably not. This is a harsh comparison, but my point remains. Many people are claiming to “fast” from social media when they are in fact sobering from it.
3. We see social media fasts as something to celebrate.
“See you in 30 days! I’ve decided to take a break from social media so that I have more time to focus on God. Feel free to join me in my fast if you’d like!”
We have probably all seen this post on Facebook about a trillion times. There are a couple of things wrong with its mentality, some of which we already covered. One thing that we haven’t yet mentioned, though, is that we aren’t supposed to publicly celebrate our fasts.
In Matthew, Jesus says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (6:16, NIV).
Woah, Jesus, did you just say that the most reward they’ll get is from themselves?
“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen, and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
A reward from God? Sign me up, please and thank you. (P.S. if you’ve fallen victim to telling others about your fast, I’m right here with you. Jesus expects us to do it, and it doesn’t cancel out the entire fast.)
4. We need to shift our perspective of social media.
Social media is a dark place. It’s breeding ground for comparison, and it’s filled with modern debauchery. No wonder why we all feel the need to take a spiritual break from it. However, social media in and of itself is not dark. We are.
In his final charge to Timothy, Paul writes, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment… Guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith” (1 Timothy 17-18, 20-21, NIV).
We need to start viewing social media as money, a resource from God. Social media is a resource that we have been entrusted with for the expansion of His Kingdom. How can we fulfill that mission if we selfishly avoid social media altogether?
Thus, it is imperative that we focus on social media creation rather than consumption, using the resource to pour Jesus into our audiences and dump the darkness out. This takes mindfulness, this takes self-control, and this takes discernment. But, remember, we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13, NIV).