Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘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?
Why do we do what we do? This question takes on a renewed seriousness when it comes to our devotional life. Why do we do what we do “for God”? Like the people of Zechariah’s day, we do a lot in the name of God or the Church. We pray every day, we read our bibles, we help the poor, we give to the church, we may fast or reflect or any number of spiritual practices. We attend worship on Sunday mornings and Bible studies or Small Groups during the week. We sing in the choir or sit on a Team, we serve dinner or decorate the sanctuary. We play music or sing music or organize or perfect the music. We do a lot in the name of God or the Church. But why?
If we are courageous enough to truly dig deeply into our motives, we may find that they are not quite as Godly as we like to believe, or at least pretend. Often we do things for God out of fear that if we do not, He will think less of us. Sometimes it’s to curry His favor, or earn His rewards. Sometimes it’s because we grew up that way and are still trying to please our parents, and sometimes it’s to assuage some guilt of our past. Sometimes we are just lonely and find companionship there, and sometimes we simply don’t take the time to examine why we do it.
For Zechariah’s audience, the they had been fasting “for God”, but not really. They had been doing it for themselves in one way or another and Zechariah calls them out for it. Then he makes the point that if we truly follow God, it wouldn’t just be our fasting that we do for Him, but also our feasting. When we follow Jesus, everything we do is for Him.
So the next time you go to do something “for God”, take the time to examine your true motives honestly and see if there isn’t really a little selfishness to it. Then repent of that, make it completely for God, and do it joyfully!