They acted religious and wondered why God wasn't impressed, "Why have we fasted, and you see it not?" the people complained to Isaiah. "Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?" (Isaiah 58:3). They were fasting for show. Seven hundred years later, nothing has changed. Jesus warns, "When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others," said Jesus. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them" (Matthew 6:1, 16).
James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes about "religion that God likes" (James 1:27), as if God's is the last opinion considered. Religion that God likes amounts to purity and charity, "to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." God has been repeating this for centuries, "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 him" (Isaiah 58:6-7).
We think fasting is about giving it up, but it's not. It's about giving it away.
God of Wonder, when I follow You, when I walk on the path You lay before me, when I pursue righteousness, I live confidently and enjoy peace. What a wonderful feeling it is, Father, to think back on my day, to smile because I made You smile, to know that I did the things You would do, that my life reflects Your love.
God, when I do what is right, I find rest and give You joy.