"It's because you are fasting to please
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
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
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 from relatives who need your help.
Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
'Yes, I am here,' He will quickly reply.
Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon." - Isaiah 58:3b-10 NLT
"When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord's favor has come.'
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently. Then He began to speak to them. 'The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!'" - Luke 4:16-21 NLT
"At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and He restored sight to many who were blind. Then He told John's disciples, "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard - the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, "God blesses those who do not turn away because of me."'" - Luke 7:21-23 NLT
This is convicting. Many Christ-followers today have gotten this all backwards. We forget that God's Kingdom is completely upside down compared to the kingdom humanity has built for ourselves. The Bible could not be clearer, all throughout, that God chooses the least, the lowliest, the oppressed, to carry out His plans. From creating His nation through one old man (Abraham) to choosing a lowly shepherd, the youngest of his family to be king (David) to bringing the salvation of the world through an innocent, poor, unmarried girl from the smallest tribe of Israel (Mary), the Bible is full of stories of God choosing the least suspecting characters to shift the trajectory of history.
Not only that, but the Bible is also explicit about caring for the poor, the needy, and "least" among us. This is convicting because how often do our lives actually brush against the poorest in society, in our world?
When Jesus walked among people, He did not come as a king, but as a humble carpenter turned Rabbi. He did not spend His days preaching and praying and teaching in the synagogues like Rabbis of the time, but in walking among the masses, touching those who were deemed "unclean" by His religion, speaking with women (who were very marginalized in His culture) and inviting them into the conversation for the first time. Jesus treated everyone he met with love and compassion, though He had little patience with those who claimed to be close to God, yet treated others as less-than.
How can we read the Bible and look intently at the life and habits of Jesus and NOT arrive at the conclusion that God cares greatly for the oppressed.
What does that look like today? Refugees, immigrants, homeless, those caught in systems of poverty, unable to escape, single parents, people of other races and backgrounds who are still oppressed, even in 2022. I'm convinced God could care less about the political issues created because of any of these people groups. God cares that we take care of the refugees among us, the exploited, and the poor. No excuses.
Jesus didn't seem to care about "getting taken advantage of" when He said, "But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow." (Matthew 5:39-42 NLT).
It all comes down to our motives. Why would we withhold any good thing from our neighbors? Only selfishness, pride, fear, and a hunger for power would cause us to withhold mercy. None of that if of God. We are to be the life and words and hands of Jesus on earth. We are to help usher in this upside down Kingdom that upholds the lowly. We cannot effectively do that when we are holding so tightly to our security, our stuff, our "freedoms." All things, by the way, we possess ONLY because God has graciously blessed us. We must be willing and happy to give it all away to bless others as we have been blessed.
The very signs of the coming Kingdom were sight to the blind, release of the captives, food for the hungry. Jesus brought all these, and more, to fruition. In His name we must work to ensure the end of oppression for everyone. We must ask God to drop the blinders from around our eyes and hearts, to really see people as God sees them. To really love and accept people as God does.
Those thrills of hope that Jesus brought, and still brings, must also be seen in us if we are truly one with Christ.
How can you engage with the poor and lowly in your communities?
What is God calling you to take on, or give up, to help usher in His Kingdom?
What barriers are holding you back from serving the oppressed wholeheartedly?