The weeks fly by don’t they?
You are probably aware by now that our spiritual practice for Lent as a community is the discipline of fasting. We are fasting food from sundown on Wednesday to sundown on Thursday. Over these weeks we have been sharing a number of reasons why we fast as Christians. You can catch up on some of these ideas by following the links below:
The History of Israel and Fasting
Fasting Is An Act of Whole Body Worship
Fasting As A Practice Against Broken Desires
Fasting As A Response To A Grievous Moment
Fasting Creates A Greater Awareness of God
This week we are looking at something that a lot of Christians never equate with fasting: Fasting is a way that we can stand in solidarity with the poor.
Now you’re probably thinking: what does fasting have to do with the poor?
Isaiah 58 is a great snapshot in the Old Testament of the prophet Isaiah bringing correction to the community of Israel. God says through Isaiah:
3 ‘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 your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 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.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “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?
7 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 them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
It is clear as day that God’s vision for his people is that when they fast they are standing in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. Isaiah here says that proper fasting involves four specific things:
1. undoing justice
2. releasing the oppressed
3. feeding the hungry
4. providing sanctuary for the homeless
Not only does Isaiah hope that through fasting the chains of injustice would be loosed, he also understands that fasting can be converted into justice and solidarity with others. There is a sense that the best kind of fasting is one that shares food with the hungry, provides the poor with shelter, and clothes the naked (vs 7).
So how does this conversion take place?
Well, there are some, when they fast, that take the money the would normally spend on food and give it to those in need. In our case, if you are fasting breakfast and dinner for six weeks, this could average anywhere from $50-$60.
Others have entered into fasts where they are living off of what a refugee would be rationed through the UN as a way to stand with the millions of refugees around the world. There are also others who enter into grain fasts with the thought that much of the world does not have the luxuries we have in the West and primarily lives off of grains.
The point in all of this is that our fasting has purpose to it and as Jesus’ people we are continually reminded to stand with the poor. We encourage you to stand the poor as you fast and consider seeing your fast converted into good for those in need.