“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[b] go free,. . .” (Is. 58:6)
How can we be salt and light to the oppressed and hurting people of the world? Isaiah gives us a clue as he speaks about fasting, words which can be applied to religion and religious acts. Fasting was an act of religious piety that was supposed to be performed out of a sense of sorrow for one’s sins as a sign of repentance. Yet then, as now, many fasted to make themselves appear outwardly righteous or as a means of obtaining favor with God. Some of those who perform religious acts, go to church or make charitable donations have the wrong motives. They perform religious deeds to build up their self-esteem, make others admire or praise them, or to atone for their sins. These are, as Jesus said, like salt that has lost its effectiveness or lights have been hidden: utterly useless for the Kingdom of God.
The Lord desires His people to deny themselves rich and excessive fare and pleasures. He wants them to give what they have to those who are in need, the poor, the sick, refugees, aliens, the prisoners, the lost. He wants His people to work for justice with mercy. He wants His people to give not just their money, but their time and talents as well. After all, His people are His agents in the world, called to build His Kingdom, shine His light, not their own. The Lord desires that His subjects not live a life of indolence, ease and self-aggrandizement while so many people are living and dying without Christ or suffering because they lack the basic necessities of life, things that we have yet take for granted. If we want to be lifted up we do so by lifting others up in the name of Jesus, no matter the cost to us.