Why don’t Christians fast the same as Muslims?

Question: "Why don’t Christians fast the same as Muslims?"

Both Muslims and Christians fast, but their purposes for fasting differ. In order to keep one of the Five Pillars, a Muslim is obligated to fast during Ramadan. Many Muslims sincerely seek Allah’s blessing and forgiveness during their fast.

For Christians, fasting is not a duty but a delight. Going without meals allows them to express their fulfillment in God rather than food. While fasting merits neither God’s favor nor a place in paradise, many Christians fast for one of the following reasons:

  • demonstrate their satisfaction in God alone (Luke 4:4)
  • humble themselves before God (Daniel 9:3; 10:12)
  • request God’s help (2 Samuel 12:16; Esther 4:16; Ezra 8:23)
  • seek God’s will (Acts 13:2-3)
  • turn from sin (Jonah 3:5-10; 1 Kings 21:25-29)
  • worship God without distractions (Luke 2:36-38)

Although Jesus (Isa) encouraged fasting, He specified neither when nor how long to fast. The religious leaders of Isa’s day prided themselves in fasting twice a week, but Jesus challenged their sincerity. Christians follow His example.

Isa’s example of fasting
At the beginning of Isa’s public ministry, before His great miracles and teaching, He fasted forty days! Afterwards, the devil tested Jesus while He was weak with hunger: “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. . . . Again, the Devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve."’ Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:2, 8-11).

Although Satan tempted Jesus to sin, Jesus remained perfect, unlike all other human beings in history.

Isa’s warning against prideful fasting

  • Don’t fast to appear religious before men
    "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).
  • Don’t fast to earn forgiveness of sin
    (Pharisee = one who belonged to a religious, fundamental sect of the Jews)
    “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:11-14).Jesus taught that we cannot earn entrance to paradise through fasting. Our sin renders our best religious deeds unworthy.

Isa’s transformation of fasting (Mark 2:18-22)
Jesus taught that following God’s holy will brings more satisfaction than eating: “. . . His disciples were asking Him, saying, ‘Master, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work’” (John 4:31-34).

What is God’s will and work? “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you also have seen Me and do not believe. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out. For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6:35-40).

Just as we will die if we don’t eat bread, we will die spiritually (i.e. separated from God everlastingly in hell) if we don’t receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. Because He came “down from Heaven”, born of a virgin, Jesus called God His Father. Jesus proved by His perfect life, death, and resurrection that He is divine, God’s Son. Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s will: saving sinners by taking their punishment on the cross. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed that He accepted Christ’s sacrifice.

How do you receive the Bread of Life? You must turn from sin and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection to save you – not your own goodness through works such as fasting.

After saving you from sin, Jesus gives you the desire and strength to glorify God through good works such as fasting: “But now, being made free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

Do you have confidence of this everlasting life through Jesus Christ? To learn more, click here.

A personal testimony of fasting
A wise man who spent years of his life serving Muslims in the Middle East, shares his reasons for fasting.

I want fasting to. . .

  • be an honest statement of what is most important to me. I want this simple act (going without food for awhile) to remind me that spiritual things are more important than things of the body; things of eternity, not of temporal things.
  • be a symbol of the satisfaction I’m finding in God Himself: loving Him, learning of Him, doing His will.
  • be a celebration of God’s setting me apart, granting me forgiveness through the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and rescuing me from the sinful habits that were enslaving me.
  • I want such times of self-restraint to be times of gladness, praise, and intercession on behalf of my family and friends in many countries.

The Lord Jesus said, "And your Father. . . will reward you" (Matthew 6:18b). I desire that the simple act of fasting may result in a deeper contentment in the Lord. Thus rewarded, I will be more motivated and better able to share my material and spiritual gifts with others.

Recommended Resource: Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norm Geisler.

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Related Topics:

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Why don’t Christians fast the same as Muslims?

What is Islam, and what do Muslims believe?

How can I, as a Muslim, be assured of paradise?

Can keeping the Five Pillars of Islam assure me of paradise?

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Why don’t Christians fast the same as Muslims?