You know it’s easy to go around saying things like, “God is on my side.” Or, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Or, “I’m blessed and highly favored.” Or even, “I’m glad I know Jesus.” But what about the people who don’t know Him? What about those who aren’t blessed? Do we have any compassion for them. Let’s listen to a religious leader who thought he too was, “Blessed and highly favored.”
Luke 18:9-14 NIV “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This passage shows that just because we think all is well between us and God doesn’t mean it is. So many (like the Pharisee) are trying to reach God through following certain rules, or by possessing special knowledge. And it’s a common thread for these folks to have no compassion for anyone else. But the Bible makes it clear that following mere rules (even God’s rules) will get us nowhere. (Luke 18:18-25) It’s the heart that the Lord is after.
“FASTING I DESIRE”
How many times have we heard religious people tell us they are fasting? They go without food or whatever for a day or so believing this will bring them closer to God. There is a true way to fast that’s spoken of in the Bible. But the moment someone goes around telling everyone he/she is fasting, and complains that they can’t eat anything today, etcetera, they’ve just made what they’re doing null and void. Let’s let God explain why:
Matthew 6:16-18 NIV “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Isaiah 58:5-8 NLT “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?  “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.  “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.”
Did we notice the kind of fasting God wants? Not the mere ritual of going through the motions of looking humble and afflicting ourselves for a day or so. But the affliction that comes from a change of heart. God wants us to behave a certain way towards others. With love and compassion. He wants us to do everything from feeding and caring for the homeless to freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned. From lightening the workloads of employees to removing the chains that bind and oppress people. What God calls fasting and people call it are two different things. What God is really calling all of us to do is BE COMPASSIONATE. Will we answer the call?
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