How to Really Be Religious


Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in. Isaiah 58:6-12 ESV

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 ESV


Harold Hill was a con man who knew how to get money out of people by tricking them, then he would leave town before they could get their money back or punish him. Harold Hill’s game was to pretend he was a band leader and a music teacher, and he would sell band instruments and uniforms to the parents of all the boys in a town. He promised them that their sons would be able to play their instruments beautifully even though he never gave them any lessons. He said they would learn how to play by the “think method,” which meant they were just supposed to think about music. He tricked everyone into town into believing that having a band instrument and a fancy band uniform would make boys into good musicians, without any lessons or any practice.

God’s people thought that they could be religious just by fasting and acting very religious and solemn, but the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah to warn them that there was much more to being truly religious than fasting. God wanted his people to stop hurting and taking advantage of others, especially those who were poor and weak. He wanted them to share their food with people who were hungry, give homeless people a place to live, and give clothes to people who didn’t have any. The Lord wanted them to remember that they were all his people, and family to each other, and to help each other the way a family does. God promised that he would give wonderful blessings to the people who did these things. He would hear and answer them when they prayed and restore their weak, broken nation.

We want to live God’s way and respond to his love by caring for others and helping them and showing them love. But we don’t always do the things that we know please God. We are selfish and ignore others who need help, and keep all of the Lord’s blessings for ourselves. But God came to us in Jesus to help us and love us. Jesus suffered and gave his life for us on the cross, and because of that we have forgiveness every day for all our sins, including our sins of selfishness and of not caring about others. God sends us his Holy Spirit to help us live the lives of love that he wants us to. We give love to others because God has given us so much love that we never need to worry about running out of his love or his forgiveness or his blessings.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the love you show us every day. Please help us to share that love with others, especially people who are in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


DaCosta, Morton, dir. The Music Man Warner Brothers, 1962. Film.