Reflecting on Good Friday: The Significance of Fasting and Abstinence in Christian Tradition

Published on Mar 31 2024Updated on Mar 31 20244 min read

Fasting and abstinence are practices observed by Christians around the world, especially during the solemn period of Lent and on Good Friday. Rooted in the biblical tradition, these acts of self-denial serve as a form of spiritual discipline, allowing believers to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to grow in their faith. The Bible, while not explicitly mentioning abstaining from red meat on Good Friday, does emphasize the importance of fasting with a sincere heart, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:17-18). This article delves into the significance of these practices, exploring their origins, variations, and the heart posture with which they should be approached.

Abstinence from Red Meat on Good Friday

On Good Friday, many Christians observe the tradition of abstaining from red meat, a symbol of penance and reflection on the crucifixion of Jesus (John 19:18). Although the Bible does not specifically instruct followers to refrain from red meat on this day, the practice has become a means to remember and honor Jesus' ultimate sacrifice, as described in 1 Peter 2:24. Through this act of abstinence, believers partake in a form of sacrifice that connects them to the profound events of Good Friday. It's a practice rooted not in scriptural mandate but in the tradition of the Church, emphasizing the call to a deeper contemplation of one's faith and the mysteries of the Christian hope found in Christ's resurrection.

Variations in Fasting Practices Among Christians

Christian denominations vary in their approach to fasting, with some observing strict fasts during Lent, while others may adopt a more flexible practice. For example, the Catholic Church prescribes specific days for fasting and abstinence, whereas evangelical traditions may encourage fasting at different times for personal spiritual growth. However, the essence of fasting remains consistent: to draw nearer to God through a humble and contrite spirit. The New Testament records instances where the early church engaged in fasting, particularly during important decisions or before embarking on missionary work (Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:23). Regardless of the duration or nature of the fast, the practice serves as a reminder of the need for personal and communal surrender to God's will and a dedication to prayer and seeking His guidance. To further explore how Christian values can guide our daily lives, consider the insights on modesty, marriage, and morality offered in another article.


In conclusion, the practices of fasting and abstinence are integral to Christian tradition, offering believers a way to reflect on their spiritual journey, especially during Lent and on Good Friday. These disciplines, when approached with the right heart attitude as taught by Jesus in Matthew 6:17-18, can deepen our relationship with God and remind us of the sacrifices made for our redemption. Christians are invited to embrace these practices with humility and sincerity, always considering their personal health and spiritual well-being. As we observe these holy days, let us do so with reverence and gratitude, preparing our hearts to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.


Q: Why do Christians abstain from red meat on Good Friday?
A: Christians abstain from red meat on Good Friday as a form of penance and to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. This tradition, while not directly mentioned in the Bible, is rooted in the idea of sacrifice and spiritual discipline, tying into the larger concept of fasting and self-denial present in scripture.

Q: What does the Bible say about fasting?
A: The Bible presents fasting as a spiritual discipline that can lead to repentance, spiritual purification, and seeking God's guidance. Jesus taught about fasting in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:17-18), and examples of fasting for protection and guidance can be found in the book of Ezra (Ezra 8:21).

Q: How should Christians approach fasting?
A: Christians should approach fasting with a sincere heart, focusing on spiritual growth and communion with God. Fasting should not be done for outward show, but rather as a private and genuine act of faith. It is a time for self-denial, prayer, and seeking God's will (Matthew 6:16-18).

Q: Can fasting involve abstaining from activities other than food?
A: Yes, fasting in a broader sense can include abstaining from various activities or pleasures as a means of devoting oneself more fully to God. This can be a way to care for the poor and needy and to focus on spiritual matters over worldly distractions (Isaiah 58:6-7).

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