The term "fast" has a couple of meanings, but when we use it to describe a condition of heart, mind, and soul which abstains from something in order to focus on another, we call it "fasting". There are all kinds of fasts - some from food, others from input of various forms of media, or perhaps from a special treat we enjoy. The season just before Easter is considered by some churches to be a season of "fasting" - giving up something in order to get a little closer to God. I wonder if we really have considered the kind of "fast" God is really after?
6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.' (Isaiah 58:6-9 The Message)
We focus on what we "give up" when God seems to focus on what we "do" with the time we set aside for HIS use. It is more to him a matter of what we are willing to be available to do WITH him instead of what we are willing to do without!
God's primary purpose of asking for our "focus" is for him to "tune us into" the various needs which exist around us. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, we miss the apparent needs all around us. We all have something to share - yet we often don't think of the impact our action of withholding what we have available to give!
Share food with the hungry - this can be both in the literal and spiritual sense. We almost always have the ability to share food with the hungry. For the majority of us, we have cupboards with extra stuff on the shelf. We have the ability to give out of our "abundance". God also asks for us to give out of something more than our abundance - simply because giving out of abundance does not cost us much! When we stop long enough to share something from a spiritual "shelf" within our lives, we are giving as God would have us give. The physical food is good - the spiritual food just "ices the cake"!
Invite the poor into your homes - a touchy subject for some, I know. We are very protective of our "space", aren't we. Here is a very practical sense of inviting the poor into our homes - open your doors to the spiritually poor first! Then you will begin to identify ways to open your doors to the physically poor later!
Put clothes of the ill-clad. We don't find it hard to part with the clothes we no longer want to wear, but have you ever given something which was your very favorite? It costs you something different, huh? In the giving of this simple gift, much is accomplished.
Be available to your own families - what? Does God actually need to tell us this? Yep! There are times when we become so wrapped up in meeting the needs of others, we neglect our own. I think God is giving us a little "process check" here. He reminds us of the need to cultivate our own fields. Cultivated fields grow much richer crops than those which have been neglected by the passage of time and attention!
We have much to "give" - did you ever consider what you give as a matter of "fasting"? Well, if we consider our "fast" in light of what God said to Israel these many years ago, we just might!