Talk is Cheap

It is abundantly clear that God has put my wife into my life for the purpose of sanctification (among other things).  During a recent six hour car ride from Pennsylvania, Whitney was sharing what she was learning from the Bible (sidenote: long car rides are some of our favorite time to talk and laugh together).  She read a passage from Isaiah 58:

The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground.  Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility?  To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?  Do you call that fasting, a fast that I, YHWH, would like?

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interest in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families (Isaiah 58:3-7)

This sounds very similar to Jesus’ description of humility in Luke 18:9-14 and genuine discipleship in Matthew 25:31-46.  Jesus describes this sort of hypocrisy when he quotes Isaiah 29:

You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.  But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’ (Matthew 15:7-9).

John Sailhamer summarizes Isaiah 58:1-14 as follows:

The kind of repentance God required of his people is a contrite heart and a life of good works.  There was little value in fasting if one’s life did not reflect compassion and obedience to the will of God.

What good is singing a song (hymn? chorus? psalm?), attending church, praying, fasting, or (even) reading my Bible if my actions and attitudes do not legitimate these practices.  Thank God for grace to try again, for a holy dissatisfaction regarding my unholy life, and disdain at my hypocrisy.

6 thoughts on “Talk is Cheap”

  1. It is so hard not to feel noble and prideful when you fast. From the scripture that is defeating the purpose of a fast. What an awesome blessing a fast can be.

  2. Hey Mark, Good post. I’ve had the kind of week that has run the gamut from how I should dress when I’m called to serve to the specific day and time God has set aside to visit church members, so when i read your post it reminded me of the horrible hypocrisy we (I) can fall into if I’m not careful. There’s a lost and dying world at the church’s doorstep and the most important thing to us apparently is the style of tie we’re wearing ( only “Christian’ leave your secular tie at home!). One more thing, Steph’s church plant is looking for help with lit drops – Talk to you later, Steve

  3. Mark,

    I think one of the problems is that modern day Christians have been taught (and have bought into the teaching) that singing, attending church, praying, fasting, and reading the Bible are good works.


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