Feasting and Fasting
Daniel 1:5, 8-17; Matthew 6:16-18; 9:9-17
A study released in 2012 reported a correlation between cell phones and relationships. Pairs of strangers engaged in conversations for ten minutes at a time. Some conversations were of an intimate and meaningful nature, while others centered on casual topics. The people reported “lowered relationship quality and less closeness” if a cell phone was in view during the conversation. They also reported “feeling less trust and . . . [receiving] less empathy if there was a cell phone present.”The study concluded that interacting with people without a cell phone nearby “seems to help foster closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust, and perceptions of empathy––the building-blocksfor relationships.”1
The youth group at my church has established a practice of leaving their cell phones at the door when they enter their classroom. The practice began while on a mission trip. When they needed time to focus on fellowship, study, worship, or prayer, the cell phones were placed on chargers. The youth now choose to remove the distraction of the cell phones from their presence so that they can completely and wholeheartedly engage with one another as a faith community and with God. They fast from texting, social media, and other outside contact to be fully present in their relationships with God.2
The spiritual disciplines of our faith, including fasting, are about nurturing our relationships with God. Denying ourselves food reminds us of our dependence on God.3 In our technology-driven society, we need reminders of our dependence on God through denial of those devices we appear to rely on, too.
- How do cell phones affect your relationships positively and negatively? How do social media influence face-to-face conversations and personal relationships? What other modern technologies (for example, television and the Internet) play a role in your relationships?
- How do modern technologies affect your relationship with God positively and negatively? What modern technology devices might you need to fast from for the sake of your relationship with God? Have you tried a technology fast in the past? How did that work for you?
- Many churches encourage people to silence their cell phones for worship. Have you been part of a faith community that has implemented a practice of abstaining from technology during times of fellowship, study, and or worship? What are the pros and cons of reducing technology’s influence when the faith community gathers?
Reverend Katie Shockley is a licensed local pastor and serves as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Sachse, Texas.
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