I was reading last week and came across a really interesting connection and since I love interesting connections, I wanted to work it out a bit here.
At the time I reading, I was also preaching Matthew 6:1-18 over three weeks where, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus gives three basic instructions for the personal practice of religious righteousness for his listeners. He tells them to give to the needy, to pray and to fast. They are to do these things for the doing of the things themselves and to be rewarded in their practice by God their Father, not by public recognition.
Now, in the story of the Old Testament we find the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom in Genesis 19. The city was swept away in punishment after a particularly disturbing series of events, which ended up with a blind gang of perverted men violently wearing themselves out trying to break into a house. The aggressive nature of the corporate sin is shocking.
Then, years and years later, the prophet Ezekiel lays down this charge, “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”
Ezekiel points out the characteristic sinful nature of Sodom which led to their doing of “an abomination”: pride, excess of food, prosperous ease, not aiding the poor and needy and being haughty. So the city of Sodom did not give to to the needy (even though they had excess), did not seem to express a dependence on God, which is prayer, and were gluttonous with their food.
So, these connections seem to be asking a lot of questions of us. At the very least, I believe, these Scriptures put together point to the character shaping value of giving, prayer and fasting in the life of people. These don’t seem to be sacrifices we make to impress God, but practices which impress on us what it is to live with God – and how God sanctifies us, or saves us from ourselves.
Then, I think it speaks to the “culture wars” we observe in the western world. Could a Christians shape culture better through giving, praying and fasting than through political actions – or even better – could giving, praying and fasting be political actions expressed as spiritual dynamics!
As you can see, this connection is interesting to me, and I hope God continues to shape my thinking in this area!