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?
Why do I discipline myself to "do" certain tasks as a Christian? There are special practices that I do to personally express my spiritual life and to grow in my knowledge and love of the Lord. I rise early to open the scriptures, to devote my thoughts to prayer, and to journal as I am doing right now. I seek solitude and silence to do these things knowing that outside distractions are far too many in my lifestyle. I give of my time and resources for the advance of the gospel in the local church and other Christian ministries. And yet somehow even though it is good for me, it cannot only benefit me. This passage warns that no spiritual discipline stops at me. It fails if it does not move me to care for others as God does.
The subject of Isaiah 58 is fasting. And Israel was great at social fasts for outward appearances. But the fasts and other spiritual disciplines that the law asked of the nation had failed to give them a heart like God had because they did not apply themselves to truly seek God in their disciplines. Fasts failed because they missed the greater call of God in the practice: to hate injustice, to break the yoke of slavery, to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to clothe the cold, and to care for the needs of the poorest among them. Had they truly grown close to the heart of the Lord in their fasts, they would have done these sorts of things.
Too long I have deceived myself thinking spiritual disciplines were all about me. They benefit me ONLY as they draw me to You AND to the world that You love. You want my time, my talents, my resources, and my heart so that others may be helped through me by You. Forgive my short-sighted spirituality. Draw me to the need of others so that I can only care for people as You care for them. I want the love of God and the mercy of the cross and the new life of Christ's resurrection to make this world a better place now as I love and follow You.