Giving the powerful role that fasting might play in developing this perspective, the biblical authors are roundly critical of those who abuse it. Typically, the presentation of fasting is surrounded by positive connotations, as when Luke mentions the widow Anna, who spent her days at the temple praying and fasting (Luke 2:36-37). But those who presumed that the mere act of fasting was sufficient in and of itself as leverage with which to force the Almighty into
recognizing them and doing their bidding faced censure. “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high” (Isa 58:3-4; Zech 7:4-5). Jesus confronted another form of abuse that was associated with fasting, criticizing those who used the fast to solicit the attention of others. The hunger pangs that attended fasting might show up in their facial expression, but those fasting did the ritual a grave disservice if they intentionally played up the discomfort in their facial expressions and posture.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting” (Matt 6:16). Jesus was equally critical of those who took the next step and publicly announced their fasting schedule. “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:12). Of course, Jesus was not opposed to fasting; he simply observed that there was a proper time and a proper way to do it (Matt 9:14-15). Fasting that was done improperly-either in a self-congratulatory was or as a means of leveraging divine submission-was better left undone.