“Why do we fast and you don’t see; why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?” Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want, and oppress all your workers. You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast; you hit each other violently with your fists. You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today if you want to make your voice heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I choose, a day of self-affliction, of bending one’s head like a reed and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family? (Isa 58:3-7 CEB)
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on Mount Samaria, who cheat the weak, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring drinks, so we can get drunk!” The LORD God has solemnly promised by his holiness: The days are surely coming upon you when they will take you away with hooks, even the last one of you with fishhooks. (Amo 4:1-2 CEB)
Lent isn’t about just the individual, but the collective, and the community. In Isaiah’s day, the wealthy corporate owner was going the synagogue and could not figure out why their prayers were not being answered. The answer was simple, forget fasting from food, or cakes and candy, trying cutting out the oppression. They oppressed their workers in particular and the poor in general. God’s response went further than starting a church food bank or giving their old clothes. God’s answer was to practice hospitality by living in the community.
Acts 2:42-46 isn’t Socialism, and it isn’t a free market economy. The church didn’t drive into the poor neighborhoods and give out food and clothes. The Church was meant to practice community. “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. (Act 2:42-46 CEB)