Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Giving Something Up for Lent and Eating Fish on Fridays

Big Idea: Explanation why many give something up for Lent and eat fish on Fridays, both pointing to the ancient concept of fasting before Easter.

"What are you giving up this year for Lent?"

Did you know that both giving something up for Lent and eating fish on Fridays are both related to the ancient practice of fasting forty days before Easter to prepare one's heart to focus on the mind-boggling crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?

Fasting is nothing new. 

People fast before certain blood tests and surgery. Some practice a regular fast with specific drinks for purging or detox.

Muslims. Jews, the Baha’i and other religious groups fast for certain periods. Catholics fast especially during Lent. Some other Christian groups do too.

Evangelicals, if they fast, they tend to fast personally, especially if a decision or issue looms with a need for serious prayer.

Jesus fasted for 40 days before the start of His ministry on earth. We see corporate and personal fasts in both the Old and New Testament.

What is spiritual fasting?

Fasting is a deprivation (often from food) for a spiritual purpose.

It could be specific like no red meat for a period. One could fast for one meal or one day a week. Or fasting with 2 meals off and one meal a day. It takes on various forms.

Can one give something up that’s not food?

Giving something up for Lent, such as diet Coke, television or social media is a form of fasting. During Lent the fast is usually suspended for Sunday, resumed on Monday.

Fasting is valuable for the Christian in whatever form it takes. In respect to Lent, it gives us more time and attention to reflect on the whole meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Benefits of giving something up

1. More time for spiritual enrichment

Instead of spending time to eat, or watch a TV show, we have more time for spiritual enrichment.

2. A trigger to think on higher things

Hunger, thirst, or desire can trigger us to turn our focus on God. During a food fast I view my hunger for food as a signal to hunger for God.

3. Participation in Christ’s suffering

At the crucifixion of Jesus He endured intense pain and shame.

The Apostle Paul says to enter into His suffering. Fasting from something reminds us that Jesus endured horror for us.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death. Philippians 3:10 NLT

4. An opportunity to take the focus off of self

We are selfish creatures. Fasting reminds us it is not all about us. We shake off our selfish desires re-focusing on serving God and serving others.

What’s up with Fish on Friday?

Some explain that a Catholic leader in the Middle Ages was trying to boost the fish market.

Much earlier than that, though, First Century Christians fasted, but broke fast one meal a day with non-meat options. It started with grains and milk products and later it was decided fish was fine.

How I see it

I like a good Friday night Fish Fry during Lent. But I do not feel bound to follow this tradition.

I appreciate the opportunity to prepare my heart for Easter. I'm inspired and uplifted spiritually by taking time to focus on God and practice spiritual exercise during Lent.

Blog schedule for the month of March.

Holy week: 'Twas the night before Easter


Up next: 27 Brief Ideas to Spirtually Prepare for Easter
Previous post: The When and Why of Lent


1. Have you had a Lent tradition in your family or your church growing up? What was it like? Do you continue to follow it now or not? If you did not, how was it viewed?

2. Have you experienced a spiritual benefit to fasting? If so, how?

3. What can you do this week to say no to yourself and reflect more on God?


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