Today’s reading is Zechariah 7-12 and Psalm 149.
In college I went through a phase of wanting to be a nun. I was jealous of the monastic, spiritual lifestyle found within the Catholic community as the spiritual community I desired was left wanting even in my Christian college setting. I didn’t know how to balance the spiritual and secular with those around me and I thought the monastic and religious life automatically provided that balance.
As an Evangelical, I obviously did not pursue a monastic or religious life. But I still yearn for the balance and even integration between the secular and sacred.
While the concept of the separation between what is secular and what is sacred is newer, it has always been around. In the book of Zechariah, God charges the Israelites and says,
When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?Zechariah 7:5-6
Even in ancient Israel, the idea of fasting and mourning was seen a sacred, spiritual, and religious and feasting was seen as “secular.” The Israelites had fasted and mourned in order to gain God’s favor but had feasted for their own enjoyment and pleasure.
God then continues and tells the people that what He wants is for them to “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other” (Zechariah 7:9-10). God is telling the Israelites that He wants them to show love daily, to put others first, and not be selfish. None of it is really about fasting.
But He is also telling them to hold the sacred and secular together, to integrate their sacred life into their secular life and vice-versa. We are not just supposed to be holy when we are doing spiritual things like fasting and going to church. We are supposed to be holy in every thing we do – when we are at the store, when we are at work, and when we are feasting.
We are currently in the Christmastide season (the twelve days after Christmas). We have enjoyed the feasting of Christmas day and tomorrow will enjoy the over indulgence of New Years Eve. Often, especially in our culture of over consumption of beauty and body size, we see “fasting” as being “holy” and festing and indulgence as being sinful and gluttonous.
But what if fasting also had its sinful and gluttonous moments and feasting was holy? When we eat, are we eating for ourselves or are we eating for the glory of God? When we fast, are we fasting for God’s favors or are we allowing ourselves to be transformed by the fast as well?
Feasting and fasting were a part of the ancient Israel culture. When they came out of Egypt and the desert, God gave the Israelites a number of festivals which involved both feasting and fasting. The two were not supposed to be separated but instead integrated into the life of an individual and the life of a community.
As we enter this New Year, how can we feast and fast together? How can we incorporate the “spiritual” areas of life into the secular? Where in your life can you both fast and feast for God? And where in your life can you administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another? How will you not oppress the widow, fatherless, foreigner, and poor? How will you look for the good for others?
Feast for God. Fast for God. Live all areas of life for God.
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.