Bible in a Year – Day 221: Selfish Self-Denial
It’s really not about us. Really. I love the words of Isaiah 58. Not only does God instruct us once again to care for the poor and oppressed, but in doing so, he reminds us that even fasting is not about us. And, I mean, when you really think about it, it makes sense. Self-denial, after all, should not ultimately be about “self.”
And yet, even today, I hear people say things like, “I’m fasting so I can be closer to God.” Or “I’m trying to invest in my spiritual life.” All those things are well and good, but God says that the outcome of fasting and investing energy in our relationship with God should ultimately benefit those around us.
“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 them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
That’s fasting with a purpose – a purpose other than what we will get out of it. And, let’s face it, that kind of fasting is harder. It’s easier to make sacrifices that are self-serving, isn’t it? When we make those kinds of sacrifices, we can tell ourselves that it’s going to be “worth it” because of the reward that we will receive in the end.
What God is instructing us to do here is to make those sacrifices and act in a way that it will be “worth it” for someone else. In other words, we do the work and someone else receives the reward. This is a wholly un-American idea – one that goes against the grain of the “hard work” ethos that is at the core of our society. Yet, this is how God works.
In fact, he leads by example in this area in that while we were still sinners (not pulling our weight, spiritually speaking) he died for us (doing infinitely more than his fair share). Salvation is a handout that we didn’t work for and don’t deserve. How then can we turn around and require so much of others while leaving our “self-denial” tactics to work for only our own benefit?
- Bible in a Year – Day 344: Dreams, Dreams
- Bible in a Year – Day 303: Already Done
- Bible in a Year – Day 301: Teacher’s Pet
- Bible in a Year – Day 293: Jesus in Awe
- Bible in a Year – Day 272: Keeping Up Appearances
- Bible in a Year – Day 265: Not Impressed
- Bible in a Year – Day 222: Bright Light! Bright Light!
- Cultural Whiplash
- Bible in a Year – Day 190: Vanity Insanity
- Bible in a Year – Day 177: Ultimate Outcome