What does it look like to love justice and mercy? Certainly it means being generous with the poor, caring for widows and orphans. The prophets and Jesus both make that abundantly clear.
Isaiah 58 is a chapter of correction and defining true worship. God says that he is not impressed with the fasting of “religious” people, who are doing it just to be seen (‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. vs 3)
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58:6-8 ESV)
A fast that pleases the Lord is one of sacrificial giving. Sharing with the hungry, being relational with people. This is the kind of fasting I want to do.
Serving and caring for people less fortunate than ourselves is not a spiritual gift. I am not exempt from these commands because my calling to the mission field is oh-so-spiritual. On the contrary, I must study these scriptures, pray for wisdom for how to minister this way in my field, and be obedient. This is the (earthly) work that frees people (the heavenly work having already been done on the cross).
When rich people meet Jesus, they see how poor they are without Him. And when poor people meet Jesus, they realize they are rich. Hungry or full, physically, is meaningless without the perfectly satisfying salvation of Jesus Christ. My burden is to see this cross-section of physically blessed people acknowledge their spiritual poverty and accept the true riches of Jesus Christ. As I endeavor to share God’s love with them, I must also show his love to the poor, the destitute. I must give feet to my faith. Sharing the Gospel and making disciples is so important. The church is God’s plan for meeting the needs of people, and I believe the church is failing in this area. Our priorities look no different than the rest of the world’s and they should stand out as a beacon on a hill. The number one need people have is for grace. God’s grace. If we can spread it by fasting the way Isaiah describes, then true freedom will follow quickly when we share that ultimate gift.
This is not just a prayer for a missionary, though I desire to remind you we struggle with the same selfishness that plagues us all this time of year. This is a prayer for the church. This is my prayer for myself. I plan to spend the next few months looking at different areas of my life and culling. I will be asking God to show me where I can cut back and fast in a way that benefits another. Then I’ll share my experience here.
This post is inspired by 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.