Fasting

Dec 09, 2019

Nothing in the Bible confronts me where I am more than Isaiah 58’s passage about fasting. Essentially Isaiah is saying that when we fast or tithe or give to the poor and needy, we continue to abuse our workers, we quarrel, we continue our sinful ways and hope to look like we are pious, good and obedient to God. and following His will.  Jesus certainly echoed this very human tendency to want to look good, when he railed at the Pharisees in Mattthew 23:

“for you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.”[1]

But this is not what God had in mind for us in fasting. We are to fast so that we “loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.”[2] Isaiah goes on to talk about feeding the hungry, sheltering them, clothing them and not turning away from them.[3]

We are to share what we enjoy with everyone. After all, everyone was made in the image of God;[4] they are all our family, our brothers[5] and sisters. Until we accept this truth, we will forever be acting against God’s will. We will be in active rebellion against God.

Fasting isn’t just about sharing our funds and feeding the homeless; it’s about giving of ourselves. More than that it is valuing the other person as much as we are valued. It’s about spending time with them, giving them the benefit of the doubt, of treating them like the sons and daughters of God which they are. It’s about joining the human race as God created it to be.

Isaiah’s words ring in my mind; they have purchase within me. I already support Urban Ministries and Loaves and Fishes in Charlotte with donations. But what am I to do about and for them? How am I to work for the benefit of others? What, O Lord, are you calling me to do for my fellow men and women who are not as fortunate as I am. How do you want me to act, to help? I am writing this in early October. I am setting my intention to fast as God would have me fast. Hopefully, by the time this is published in December, I will have the answer.

The Bible speaks of worship and fasting [6] and prayer and fasting.[7] Even more than that fasting comes from a grateful heart. From thanksgiving to the Lord who has such a giving heart, who showers us with life and love and what we need. God loves and forgives us for being the imperfect people that we are. To live in gratitude means that we see all that the Lord is giving us, providing for us, helping us with, healing us and loving who we are. And we trust that this will always be true. Fasting is the appropriate response for people who are so blessed, so provided for. We can easily give up some of what we have been given in gratitude, we can give of ourselves to others. And so we fast and give. We worship and fast. We pray and fast.

 

Our choice to fast comes from a recognition of all that we have been given. We give because we are so grateful to have received His gifts. We give because we model our lives after the One who created this world, this universe with sun that shines on everyone, good and evil.[8] Whose rain falls on everyone.[9] Who blesses everyone, if only their eyes were open to see what He is doing in their lives and how He would support and love them, should they turn back to Him.[10]

 

Fasting seems like a natural choice to me for all who worship God, who pray to Him to lead their lives, who follow His Son and all that He taught on this earth as a human being. How could it possibly hurt us to share some of what we have been given. For isn’t that the law of love? That it should flow freely out of us to everyone we meet. That we help those we are called to help. And if we give up some of our own blessings to do that, isn’t that part of the call to help, too?

 

As for me, I have started to contact agencies that help the homeless in Charlotte. I feel called to offer spiritual direction to their clientele. What is the Lord calling you to do? What fast does He want you to make?

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Questions to ponder over the week: What is God calling me to do, to serve Him by serving others? Who would it be most natural for me to serve? Is there an area of past pain and suffering that has been healed in me in which I could support others suffering from the same kind of challenge? What are the ways I am serving God? Am I just donating money and things to others or really giving of myself?

 

Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who serve God by serving others, who follow Jesus and His ways, who seek out other people to serve. May we be sharing with others what we have been given.

 

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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 12.2.19s is entitled, “Complaints vs. Gratitude.”

 

[1] Matthew 23:3-7

[2] Isaiah 58:6

[3] Isaiah 58:7

[4] Genesis 1:27

[5] Matthew 23:8

[6] Acts 13:2, 3, for example

[7] Acts 13:2,3 and 14:34, for example

[8] Matthew 5:45

[9] Ibid

[10] Matthew 3:2

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