There were some people who wanted to impress God.
They looked through the rules God had given and found a rule about fasting. About giving up food for some period of time. And so they kept the rule about fasting, going without food for the prescribed period of time.
But it made them cranky. And they took this crankiness out on the people around them. The people who worked for them. The people who came to them for help. They were hangry.
What they missed, because they were worried about impressing God, about technically keeping the rules, is that this rule about fasting is not more important than that rule about loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
Before he died, when Jesus was giving his last teachings, he said this:
If you love me, keep my commands. And here is my command. That you love one another.
It wasn’t the first time he talked about these two things.
When people asked him what the greatest commandment was, he said that the law could be summarized in two.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.”
And “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It sounds good. Until it doesn’t. Until it’s hard.
When God spoke through Isaiah to the people who were fasting and getting angry, God said that he wasn’t interested in keeping the fast and hurting people. Instead, God said, turn the fast upside down.
But, eat WITH the people who are truly hungry.
Pack a picnic basket. Get a folding chair and table. Go to the person in the Target parking lot who is asking for money. Set up the table and eat together.
But, we say, that person is scamming us.
That may be true. So instead of giving him the picnic, go to the trailer park, go to the person at the bottom of the hourly wage scale. Set up the table and the folding chair and ask them to have a seat.
And then, when you find out about the childcare rules that are keeping them from working or the legal process that is keeping them stuck, or the medical treatment that would bring them freedom but is unaffordable, respond to it.
Instead of giving up food and getting angry, give up time and attention and control of the agenda.
Because, according to a clear understanding of God’s provision, the person who owns the business didn’t get there on their own. And the sickness and poverty of others isn’t a sign that they are bad. It is an opportunity to show and share God’s love. Around the common table, to find God’s presence and peace.
The commandment to love God and each other applies to each of us.
In my day, where am I forgetting about my hard work and focusing on God’s harder work the death of Jesus? Where am I sharing what has been given to me?