““Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6–7, ESV)

January is the season of new things. We look to the new year as an opportunity to discard bad habits and create good ones. For the Christian it may mean putting down our phone and picking up our bibles or turning off the tv and praying more. Whatever it might be, we tend to look at this time as an opportunity to better ourselves. “If only I can get closer to God,” we say, “I would be a happier person.” What if our joy is wrapped up in making others happy at our expense? Are we willing to forsake our lives in order to meet the needs of those less fortunate than us?

This is exactly what God is telling us in Isaiah 58. We fast because we want to be blessed, but we won’t be blessed till we are a blessing to others. When Paul tells us, “it is better to give than to receive,” he is saying our joy and fulfillment is wrapped up in: “loosing the bonds of wickedness, setting the oppressed free, sharing our bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless into our homes.”

Jesus is our example of this. He left the comfort of heaven to become mortal like us so that we could experience “joy inexpressible and full of glory, the salvation of our souls” (1Peter 1:8-9). And He has anointed us with the Holy Spirit to continue His work – to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19) to all people.

The fast that glorifies God is one that brings the goodness of God to those who need it most. In this way we fulfill the greatest commandments – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let the world behold the wonders of God’s love in and through us this year.

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