CAST Voices Devotion: True Fasting
By Laura Mbugua-Mwaura
2 March 2017
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.’Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
Yet on the day of fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
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 the traditional liturgical calendar, today is the day after Ash Wednesday, the second day of Lent. Depending on your church background, you may or may not practise Lent. However, the Lenten season before Easter is intended to draw us closer to Christ through repentence and remind us of the ultimate sacrifice He made for us.
It’s easy to make Lent into a time of dieting from chocolate or coffee. And while slowing down on your sugar intake is definitely not a bad thing, God seems to be more concerned about issues of injustice when it comes to fasting.
Isaiah lists a few very practical things we should be concerned about for others when fasting:
- Lack of clothing
Isaiah says that fasting should be more focused on these issues of injustice than on self-deprivation. When fasting becomes all about us and getting justice for ourselves, we lose the plot. In fact, Isaiah says that fasting this way can lead to fighting and even exploiting those around us. Fasting should be a time where we deny ourselves in order to be more attuned to the needs of others. In the end, it’s all about loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. If we fast this way, God will give us some beautiful promises (vs 8-9).
- What is your experience with fasting and Lent?
- In what situations besides Lent should we fast?
- How can we fast with the goal of being concerned about issues of injustice?