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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional 

It is difficult to say no. Particularly to yourself. Donna and Tom, two government employees on NBC's television show, Parks and Rec, have an annual "Treat Yo Self" day in which they allow themselves to be selfish. They pamper themselves, treat themselves to expensive and useless items, and do whatever makes them happy. What makes Tom and Donna's "Treat Yo Self" day so apropos is that these two, more than any other characters on the show, clearly treat themselves all the time.

It is the natural inclination of the human heart to be selfish. In the book of Isaiah, God addresses Israel's failure; they do not trust in the Lord, they flirt with idols, and they fail to do justice. They are consumed with themselves. Isaiah 1:11-17 states that Israel's offerings are rejected, and they themselves will be rejected if they don't stop doing evil and instead get busy doing good. God's command is personal and practical. The Israelites are to "cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

That certainly is the opposite of being selfish, but without God's promise in verse 18 there is no hope that we would be able to just say no to ourselves and look to the good of others. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." God offers us unmerited salvation. God changes our situation so that the call to cease doing evil and to do good is possible.

It is through love (Jesus's love for us) that we are changed from people who are selfish to people who love others. Holding tight to God's promise that He has through His Son cleansed us from our sins, during this fasting season just say no! Instead of our fasting being just another form of self-absorption, let it be an opportunity for us to stop our thoughtless self-consumption and learn to do good.

Laurel Copp
Yale Ministry Fellow