Isaiah 58:6-7 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
In the beginning of the year, the pastor at a church I have been visiting requested that members of his congregation join in a 21-day fast. The fast didn’t have to involve abstaining from food altogether but could include giving up certain foods or other forms of sacrifice, such as television shows. As a diabetic, I decided to give up sweet desserts, which is one of my food weaknesses.
In Isaiah 58, God was not pleased with the fasting of His chosen people, because they were quarreling and fighting with “wicked fists.” Also, there was no change in their behavior or in the ways that they treated other people, even as they supposedly were worshiping Him. So, He outlined what an authentic fast entailed, which included how one treats others and the measure of one’s compassion, empathy, and kindness.
God doesn’t want rote behavior for the sake of appearances or as a means of gaining God’s approval, as if He keeps score and the person with the highest numbers goes to heaven. What matters to God is that His people show His love and care to “the least of these,” meaning to individuals who are less fortunate, or to those oppressed whose voices are silenced.
Today, let us work to help each other make it through this tedious journey called Life. At some time or another, we all become one of the least of these, needing the help, empathy, and love of God that can only be shown through the generous love of His people. The apostle Paul was correct, if you do everything that you believe God expects of you while in your places of worship but have not love, then you aren’t really doing anything at all.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As we begin this season of Lent leading up to the celebration of Easter and the defeat of death and the grave, touch our hearts for those who need our help and love. Let us show empathy to others, even as we have needed the empathy of others in the past. Remind us to give generously of what we have, but also to speak for those whose voices are silenced by oppression and injustice. Help us to remember that You show no partiality, and, therefore, neither should Your people. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.