Christians Fast Because Satan Is Hungry – Dustin Messer

We fast because Satan is hungry, and his meal of choice is us. 

I should back up. Let’s go back to Ireland (circa 1615), and then to the Garden of Eden (circa the beginning of time).

In the Irish Articles of Religion, we find a helpful discursus on fasting. After insisting, emphatically, that keeping a fast can’t “bring us to heaven,” article 51 lauds the value of the discipline:

It is, therefore, requisite that first, before all things, we cleanse our hearts from sin, and then direct our fast to such ends as God will allow to be good: that the flesh may thereby be chastised, the spirit may be more fervent in prayer, and that our fasting may be a testimony of our humble submission to God’s majesty, when we acknowledge our sins unto him, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, bewailing the same in the affliction of our bodies.

The 17th-century Celts get it right. We fast for two primary reasons: to recall our mortality and to flee from sin and repent. While these two reasons can be distinguished, they can’t be separated. Sin and death are joined at the hip, as are repentance and dependence on God. 

Back to Eden

Adam and Eve had a choice: depend on God (his strength, his wisdom) or depend on their flesh (their strength, their wisdom). In eating the fruit, they chose the flesh and, consequently, death (Gen. 2:17). They took the first step on a road that would lead them east of Eden and, eventually, back to where they started: dust (Gen. 3:19). This is their curse. Satan exits Eden along with mankind, but his curse is different. He will crawl on his belly and eat dust (Gen. 3:14).

Adam and Eve had a choice: Depend on God (his strength, his wisdom) or depend on their flesh (their strength, their wisdom).

This is where we find ourselves today: exiled from the garden, sinning, dying, and being chased by a serpent hungry for his next meal. This is why Satan flees those who resist him (James 4:7). When we, like Adam, put our hope in flesh, we experience a spiritual death. This may be a stretch, but it’s as if we shed spiritual skin cells when we sin. The more we sin, the more of this dust we create—and the better-fed the serpent becomes. The less we sin, the less we shed—and the likelier the serpent will move on to an easier meal. 

This is the connection between fasting, our mortality, and repentance. 

Food is necessary for life. When we go without it, we deplete ourselves of energy, of life. In choosing to go without food, we’re choosing the way of the cross. Counterintuitively, in choosing physical death, we experience spiritual life. We learn to depend not on our strength, but God’s. Like the prophet Ezekiel, we make our meal the very Word of God (Ezek. 3:3). As we repent of trusting in the flesh, we better learn to experience the power of the Spirit.

Fasting Doesn’t Save

None of this is to say, however, that fasting saves us. It’s here that the warning offered by the Irish Articles comes back into play: fasting isn’t what gets us to heaven; Jesus is! In between Adam’s feasting on the fruit and our fasting stands the Messiah, the second Adam.

God promised a seed from the woman who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:16). This seed—this second Adam—would succeed where the first Adam failed. 

Whereas the first Adam ate when tempted by Satan, Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:2). Whereas the first Adam blamed his bride, Jesus took the blame and responsibility from his bride, dying in her place (1 Pet. 3:18). Whereas the first Adam put his hope in physical things like food, Jesus put his hope in spiritual reality, sustaining himself on God’s Word (Matt. 4:4). 

We don’t fast to be saved; we fast because we have been saved.

We don’t fast to be saved; we fast because we have been saved.

As a spiritual people, we fast because we now see the follies of the flesh and know the fruits of the Spirit. 

Indeed, it’s only those confident of a treasure buried in the field who will sell all their possessions to buy an empty lot (Matt. 13:44). We fast because we’re confident that when Jesus bid us “come and die,” he was offering us life. 

Spirit Over Flesh

We go without food today because we don’t want to spoil our appetite for the eternal feast that awaits us tomorrow.

Fasting for a season reminds us of our mortality and sin. If we trust in our decaying flesh, we will fall right into the Devil’s trap. But if we repent of our sins—if we chose the incorporeal over the corporeal, the eternal over the temporal, the Spirit over the flesh—we won’t be eaten by Satan; we’ll be filled by the Spirit. 

While the dust-eater comes only to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

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