Isaiah 58:6-9a (NIV): “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 him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
In today’s American culture, most people see their faith as a personal thing – something to be practiced in private, that is not designed to do anything outside their own “Jesus and me” relationship. But God, first of all, designed Christianity to be worked out and lived out in community, just as He Himself is a community. ALL of the Christian’s life is to be lived out together, with the mutual love and support of the community helping everyone to grow. And, God’s love, fostered in that community, is designed to impact the larger world. Fasting, although not to be done for show, or to improve one’s spiritual reputation (Matthew 6:16-18), is designed to have an impact that stretches far beyond the faster. Don’t merely fast from food – see if there are actions or attitude in your life contrary to God’s heart, and turn away from them as well. Don’t just fast to try to make your prayers more effective in fulfilling your own wants and needs – be open to what God shows you about how to meet the needs of those around you. Don’t merely refrain from eating food – share the food you have with others who have less. And don’t use fasting only as a way to deepen your relationship with God – use the opportunity to introduce someone else to Him so that they can be saved, too. A totally inward focus in fasting or any other spiritual discipline, chokes it off and keeps it from bearing the eternal fruit it could, if each person would seek how God wants us to use them to reshape the world around us.
Father, thank You for this insight. In all I do, help me to step outside the narrow recesses of my own spirituality, to find out how You can use me to impact the world for the kingdom. May YOUR will be done. Amen.