Much of the Sermon on the Mount has to do with our motives. The Savior challenges us to have pure motives, to do things that are good, and to do them for the right reasons. Sometimes young people wonder about the purpose of fasting.
In Matthew 6 we read, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).
Although Jesus does not outline why we should fast in these verses, He does impress upon the mind the importance of fasting for the right reasons, not drawing attention to ourselves when doing good works. In my studies on this topic I have found something that helps youth to see at least in part why we should fast.
The Feel of Hunger
Perhaps the feel of hunger is why the Lord in his wisdom has linked fasting with giving to the poor. It took me a number of years to realize why we donate offerings on the day we fast. So often I have been reminded by others to have a purpose for the fast. This is excellent advice. It is healthy to think of a personal reason for fasting or to fast for the spiritual support of another member, but I think the greatest reason of all is linked to the donation and needs no other motive. Hunger is the greatest scourge of poverty. When we fast we feel, in the in the slightest of ways, what the poor may feel every moment of every day. Knowing that this is their experience, we are asked to alleviate it by our contribution. Our fasting is a monthly encouragement to consider the plight of the poor. 1
1. S. Michael Wilcox, What the scriptures teach us about prosperity, p.120.