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 yourselves from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal.
Isaiah 58:5-8a NLT
If you have time, I suggest reading this whole chapter or coming back to read it later and spend some time studying all of it more deeply.
We often think of fasting as abstaining from food or maybe from media, but God shows us here that fasting isn’t about what we give up: it’s about the condition and motivation of our hearts. God’s words to Isaiah for the Israelites in this passage are transformative. Instead of just skipping lunch, we should also skip social injustice. We should feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the needy among us. Fasting very often turns into a self-righteous act, and God turns that on its head by pointing us out towards the world in need of help. Find a news headline today about a great need in the world. Print it or cut it out. Then write or sketch a different ending – a way you can help to transform that need.