Today I saw something in scripture I had never seen. Frankly, I’ve read it before, but my eyes were blind to it, my ears were deaf to it, and my heart was cold towards it. It is something so simple, yet so complicated, mainly because we make it complicated. My hope is that it will challenge you, as it has me.
Many of us have embarked on a 21-Day Fast because we want God to do something supernatural in our lives. Some of us are looking for financial breakthrough. Some of us are looking for physical, mental, or emotional healing. Some of us are looking for clear direction for the new year, and some are just wanting to get closer to God. These are all good reasons to fast and for many of us we have seen the results of fasting, but what if I told you God doesn't care about your fast? I know, I can already feel the uprising of anger in your heart, you dismissing me and thinking I’m an idiot, but just pause for a moment and think. God doesn’t care about your fast. The implication here is selfishness.
I’ve learned that one way to keep God from blessing my life is being selfish and only caring for my wants and needs. I can remember multiple times where I wanted all focus, attention, and resources to be purposed towards me. I wanted to be the only thing that mattered. The sad reality is that we treat God the same way. especially during times of fasting. We want God to direct all his attention and resources towards our selfish needs, but friends I’m here to challenge your perspective. God wants us to care for others and meet their needs. God wants us to direct our attention and resources towards others in need.
In Isaiah 58, God tells his people he isn’t impressed with their fasting. He tells them they are pretending to want to be near him (v.2) and merely fasting to please themselves (v.3). God points out that all they do while they fast is opress their workers and fight and quarrel amongst each other. (v. 3-4). They went to lengths to make themselves look like they were fasting (v. 5) but God was not impressed in the least. Instead, God gives them his standard of fasting. This is the part that hit me like a ton of bricks.
“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.
7 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. (v. 6-7)
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble. (v. 9b-10a)
Help others. In this moment, I realized God was revealing his heart to me. God cares that people are oppressed, sometimes by our doing. God cares that people are bound and need their chains broken. God cares that people go hungry, without clothing or shelter. God cares about the needs of that family member we avoid. Ouch. God cares how we talk to others. He actually compares us blaming people and spreading gossip about them with putting a “heavy yoke of oppression” on them. Wow. At this point, I had to evaluate why and how I was fasting. Was I being selfish in what I am asking God? Do I really care about others? Am I gossiping or blaming people for things? How was I helping others in need?
And so I challenge you. If you are fasting, whether now, or in the future, will you love others? Will you choose to be selfless? Will you care for the oppressed? Those in need? No that doesn’t only mean people who are poor, who can’t manage for themselves, or people who are marginalized. That means everyone in need around you; family, friends, coworkers, employers, employees, pastors, leaders, your enemies. Some people are in need of your forgiveness. Some are in need of your patience. Some are in need of your grace, love, kindness, joy, peace, gentleness, and self-control. Sound familiar?
The beauty is that God promises to take care of us when we direct our attention and resources towards others.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. (v 8-9a)
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 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 spring. (v. 10b-11)
So while you are fasting, remember that God doesn’t care about your fast. He does care that we have his heart, and his heart is for others. When we align ourselves with his heart, and his will, he takes care of us. “Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:33).”