Stop Everything! Let?s Eat

During the month-long fast of Ramadan, devout Muslims are not allowed to take anything by mouth between sunrise and sunset. No food, water, gum, tobacco — nothing. But, between sunset and sunrise one may eat, and all do. The custom in Bangladesh is to end the daily fast with a snack called “Iftar” precisely at sunset. Dinner is then served later as is customary at all times of the year. During Ramadan, everything stops at Iftar. My wife and I were shopping in a handicraft store in Dhaka late one afternoon and the clerks were showing hand embroidered tapestries, holding them out for us to examine. Someone came and whispered in the ear of one of the clerks who promptly turned to me, handed me her end of the fabric and said, “Hold this.” She then, with the other clerks, went quickly to a corner where their Iftar was spread and waiting. All business in the rather large store stopped while all the employees broke their fast.
On other occasions I have been stopped in long lines at closed bridge toll booths and at ferry ghats, waiting while the employees enjoyed Iftar before re-opening the booths and re-starting the ferry. It has been a long day, everyone is hungry and thirsty, and everything else is put on hold while those basic needs are taken care of.
What is important enough for us that everything else must stop for it? What comes first, in the everyday practical realities of life? To some it may be a particular television show; their schedule is built around it so that it is never missed. Others may make the telephone “king.” When it rings everything is dropped and the conversation is pursued, regardless. The fact is that all of us have our priorities, those things that we put ahead of everything else.
Jesus said that blessings come to those whose number one priority is righteousness. Doing right, and being right, must be the most important thing in our lives. To “hunger and thirst after righteousness” is much more than to have a normal desire, like the hunger experienced at meal times for food. The language Jesus used is more akin to that of starvation. He describes the desperate need of a starving man, the intense thirst of one without water for days. When one seeks righteousness as an absolute requirement of life, he will be satisfied and blessed.
One of my favorite sermon titles is “Making Your Duties Your Desires.” When we can mature to the point that what we should do and what we want to do are the same, life becomes very simple. God’s will is also our will, what we really want to do. There will still be conflicts, weaknesses, and temptations, but they will be much more easily resolved, and will occur less frequently.
Some Christians have built their daily and weekly schedules around religious activities. They are going to attend the assembly of their local congregation if at all possible, every time. They are going to pray and read their Bibles every day. Other acts of service or devotion are also on their schedule, not to be missed. This is approaching the correct attitude, but may still fall short. It is not enough just to want to do the right thing. We must also want to be right. We must seek a complete transformation of character (Romans 12:1,2) so that the way of God is natural to us. When everything else in life is secondary to our state of righteousness before God, we are indeed happy.

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