This concept is not confined to the New Testament, either. So, it has been true throughout human history. In Isaiah 58, God admonishes His people that their supposed service to Him in fasting is not the real service that He desires. Instead, He wants them busy in meeting the needs of those around them. He poses a rhetorical question, asking whether the real fasting done in worship of Him is, “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” These verses pretty well cover the gamut of issues that affect our modern society. We should never forget that these “mere social issues” have an enslaving effect on society. Whether it is abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse, the dissolution of family, or any of a long list of social ills, they all have a negative impact on people’s lives, especially the youngest of us who have no power when an adult brings sin and even abuse into the home. Therefore, it is always our duty to oppose sin in society, using whatever gifts we may have, battling it however God leads us to do so, standing in the gap wherever we live and work in society.
We do, however, have to be careful in not focusing entirely on social issues and neglecting the remaining teachings of the Bible. That has been the downfall of many liberal denominations in the 20th and 21st centuries, causing them to lose their way, becoming more secular and gradually declining in power and numbers as people realized there was little or no truth to be found in their houses of worship. They got the social issues right, but they got too bogged down in political solutions for many of society’s problems and forgot about the necessary individual work in our communities as well as the transforming work of God’s truth in people’s lives. Once we clothe them, feed them, break their bonds, then we need to meet their spiritual needs, teach them, disciple them, and encourage them in a Christian walk. As Jesus noted in Matthew 4:4, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” Man is designed to be a spiritual creature, and even though all of his physical and emotional needs be met, he will not be happy until his spiritual needs are met as well. There has to be a balance.
Moreover, the spiritual needs do not end at salvation. This is another mistake of modern evangelical churches, believing and even teaching that everything falls in place once we and others get our ticket punch for heaven as we are saved. That moment of new birth merely begins our life of struggle to serve others and to become what we are originally designed for, to fulfill His plans for us as His servants, the long process we call sanctification. We still have far to go after the moment of our spiritual birth, and we still have this treasure in earthen vessels, such that we can never let up in trying to be conformed to His will and His principles. We will still be able to sin, and will be quite good at it sometimes, until we receive our glorified bodies. We have to remember that so many of God’s best people in the Bible were still able to do foolish things after God claimed them as His own. As I have said many times while attending or teaching Bible classes, the Bible is NOT the story of what great men and women did for God. It is, rather, the story of what great things God was able to do through inherently and deeply flawed men and women.