Since ancient times human civilizations have believed in the strange idea of “humans fasting on earth, somehow pleases gods in heaven.” The tradition of fasting is as ancient as humans. People temporarily deprive their flesh of food, water, sometimes from their own saliva and sometimes from sex (Brahmacharya Vrat) as an observance to various type of fasting (Vrat). Christian scriptures also have counts of this ancient rite. Devout men in holy writings are also said to have observed fasting from time to time. We have Moses (Deut 9:9-18), David (2 Sam 12:1-23), Daniel (Dan 10:1-3), Elijah (I Kings 19:4-8), Ezra (Ezra 10:6-17), Esther (Esther 4:15-17), Paul (Acts 9:1-9), and elders of Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) as respected men from Christian faith who fasted in their times and seasons. Does the God of the bible propagate the same idea as pagan rite propagates – “fasting on earth please gods in heaven”? And what about fasting in TPM? Aren’t they propagating the same idea? Come, let us dive in the vast ocean of this ancient human rite and try to find the scriptural rationale behind it.
God’s perspective on fasting
God commanded Israelites to fast on the tenth day of the seventh month, for the atonement of their sins (Lev 23:27). This was community fasting, supposed to be observed annually for the atonement of sins. Then we see Jesus asking disciples to make sure that they do not fast like the Pharisees (Matt 6:16-18). However, the best insight on fasting is available in Isaiah chapter 58. This is a classic demonstration of how a fast ought to be and how it ought not to be. We see God pouring out his heart on the kind of fast his soul longs to see (Isa 58). Here is the crux of Isaiah 58,
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; ….Then shall thy light break forth as the morning…Then shalt thou call and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. Isaiah 58:6-9
This explanation to fasting is the best one of what I have ever encountered in human literature. God in heaven does not get pleased when humans on earth deprive their flesh of its God-designed necessity of food, water, saliva, or sex. He is pleased when human learn to share their possessions with those who have it not. The idea of Holy Scriptures is not abstinence but sharing, loving and caring.
TPM version of Fasting
Pharisees of TPM have completely erased Isaiah 58 from their bibles. They rather point you to the exodus and teach you to not to touch your wives during three days of sanctification meetings (Ex 19:15). These bluff masters can’t see Isaiah 58 but are ready on their toes to twist the meaning of woman as a wife in Exodus 19:15.
I will not debate what Exodus 19:15 is about, and what it does not say. As far as my understanding of fasting goes, I think fasting in the sight of God is not afflicting your flesh by keeping your flesh from its hard-wired needs! God doesn’t care about you not even swallowing your saliva or walking down to temple on naked foot. He cares little whether you are on hunger strike of one day or 7 days! Fasting for him is all about loving others as we love ourselves. It is about making abstinences for sake of sharing with needy. It is depriving the sinful self-conscious “I” nature for the sake of loving others as we love ourselves. If you have a fist of rice, and a hungry person is begging for food, then abstinence from eating the rice, because you gave the rice to the hungry man, is what is fasting in the sight of God. It is only when we observe such abstinence coupled with care for others that our prayers become sweet-smelling aroma before God. This is the fast which God of the bible propagates and not the hunger strike of TPM.
Have you ever peeked in faith homes during their fasting seasons of 3 days or 7 days? Have you gone shopping with them to fruit markets during fasting feasts of TPM? Hundreds of kilos of watermelon, apples, bananas, sapodilla, grapes, mangoes and every kind of fruit on the face of the earth will be transported from a fruit market to the feast homes (you can call it fast homes, I prefer calling it feast homes). Sisters will ask the brother in-charge “Brother, what fruit would you like to have – would you prefer a glass full of oats or a glass full of sapodilla squashed in a mixer or “Bourn Vita” blended with holy white milk?” And the poor boys and girls working in faith homes will be forced to remain hungry. Not even a spoon of crumbs falling from rich saints table will be shared with these poor boys and girls labouring hard in feast homes. They will be made to wash the clothes of these servants of Satan as white as snow, or iron them or wash teacups, while the kings and queens of feast homes are taking a nap in their private rooms. Fasting in TPM is shifting to an alternate mode of food, which is from solid food to liquid fruits. They give up chicken, mutton, fish, and egg, but only to gulp all these in the latter part of the week, in quantity seven times more than they used to eat before. Sharing their fruits, chicken, mutton with poor people in the streets, is against their Consecration. Isaiah 58 is missing in the DDT publications.
People like Thambi Durai and Shyam Sunder make much ado of their starvation shows. If Pharisees fasted twice a week, then Thambi Durai will fast four times a week, to make his righteousness appear to exceed Pharisees by a mile and a half. As heaven is far from earth, so is TPM fasting far from the pattern required by the scriptures. There are hundreds of weird beliefs and practices concerning fasting in TPM. One worker once criticized me for fasting without having informed him. He said “Did you consult me before fasting? Make a note of this. Never fast before informing servants of God. Otherwise, the devil may attack you.”
Another wild feature of TPM fasting is involuntary fasting. Many worker sisters and small brothers are made to starve because it is centre pastor’s order. If the pastor wants to buy a land worth a few million, or if he wants to organize a convention, he will demand workers under him to go without food for three to seven days. This he believes will enable him to pull down treasure pots from heaven, for buying properties on earth. If you ask these workers whether they really want to take these fasts, they will say “What can we do, we have no choice. Food is not prepared in faith home?” So some brother run outside faith homes and enjoy the meal in restaurants and believers homes. In many places by ordering others to starve, the centre pastor will himself gulp food by giving an excuse that he is old and diabetic.
The Bible clearly says that, for God to hear our prayers we must first, learn to share our roof with poor people during the fasting. “Is fast not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?.. It is then thy light shall break…the glory of God shall be thy reward.. (Isaiah 58:7-8).
However, the taskmasters of TPM will teach you that God supplied them with truckloads of money to construct buildings when they had fasted for it! While the poor people of their own community live in rented homes, they claim God gave them few millions to expand the holy roof above their heads. One often observed the phenomenon of TPM fasting is a fight among sisters after the fasting period is over. After the fasting is over, fighting will begin. The reason is irritation! They get soon irritation due to starvation, which was falsely proclaimed as fasting! If you can count stars in heaven, and sand particles on earth, then you can also count unbiblical fasting practices of TPM. There is no end to them.
Unless these people restore Isaiah 58 in their bibles and learn to sacrifice their food, water, clothing, and roof with unprivileged ones, their fasting will be nothing more than temporary starvation. As said earlier, let me repeat, God cares little about how rigorous abstinence are you making from your food, water, saliva or sex. He is more interested in seeing you share your part with those who have it not. Unless TPM learns this, there is no meaning in fasting in TPM. God might soon ask them, Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? (Zechariah 7:5).