“Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”
Nothing about this is consumeristic, self-focused or personally rewarding, which I think a lot of the times is exactly how we behave in Christianity. We stick out our hand wanting to receive, when God is putting his hand on our shoulders, turning us around and saying “go, love, serve”. This will tell people more about him than binging on sermon podcasts, attending four Bible studies a week, always having your nose in a new theology book or blogging behind a computer (gulp). Are those things bad? No. I just don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says to spend time on yourself in that quantity. Jesus ducked out of the crowds long enough to pray, meditate and rest. Sabbathing is straight up in the ten commandments, and as we see in chapter 58 here, a discipline we are to take seriously. So resting is mandatory. Self-care is required. But only consuming? Fasting to please ourselves? Not in the play book. (Embrace the sports reference, it’s almost football season.)
This morning I made a list of spiritual things I do that benefit me vs. that benefit others and it was…uneven, to say the least. I encourage you to take a minute and do it as well.
These chapters call me to keep it simple. Read God’s word, put it into action, serve other people. The Bible says it best:
“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing stream.” 58:10-11
The plants in my garden are heavy with fruit right now, a testimony to how much I’ve tended to them. Fed them, removed the weeds from around them, watered them and check on them daily. God is not a task-driven slave driver, but a gardener. He doesn’t tell us not to focus on ourselves because we’re unimportant, but because he takes perfect care of us.