Thoughts : Poverty : The Christian, Ramadan and Fasting

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Today my workplace arranged a visit to the Malay Village at Geylang – so that we could be knowledgable about the Muslim religion and their month of Ramadan.

At the beginning of our little tour, our Muslim tourguide explained what the Ramadan is about. He mentioned one reason for the fasting that Muslims do during the day: to be able to feel how the poor and hungry feel. When he mentioned that, I thought to myself, “Damn, that’s so meaningful. Why doesn’t Christianity have that kind of thing. We need it. That would be able to develop sympathy in our hearts for the poor and hungry.”

(I tried searching the Net and it wasn’t that easy to find an article linking fasting to the purpose of seeking to feel how the poor and hungry feel. However, an introduction to Islam article I found on the Net said: “Although fasting is beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly pleasures and comforts, even for a short time, the fasting person gains true sympathy for those who go hungry regularly, and achieves growth in his spiritual life, learning discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility.”)

Of course I knew why there isn’t such an event in Christianity. All the rules and laws of the Muslim religion can easily be legalistic. Christianity is not a legalistic religion. That’s not to say Christianity has no rule or laws. But the centrality of Christianity is not its rules but the freedom that is gained through the death of Jesus Christ. It’s not what we do for God or others that is central to Christianity. It’s what Jesus and God did for us.

But having said that, I think if one does any sacrifice for the right motive and reason, it’s good. For example, we ought not to fast because we think we may have a better chance of being saved. That’s the wrong reason and motive. We fast because we want to seek God and let God know that we’re serious and mean business. We want to abstain from things that distract us and seek Him wholeheartedly. We know we are already saved and our fasting does not win us more points in the eyes of God. Fasting for that motive is good.

Fasting for the purpose of seeking to feel how the poor and hungry feel may not be a directly spiritual reason, but I believe it’s ultimately a good reason. God desires us to have compassion for the poor. Jesus felt for the poor. He helped them. He fed them. The poor is very much on God’s heart. And if we live in a world of abundance, maybe we need to know how it feels to live in a world of non-abundance.

An article I read on the Net went:

A television program says that children in Afghanistan have been desensitized to the presence of war, because of so many years of warfare around them. Would our exposure to a wealthy society have desensitized us to the fact that hunger exists in this abundant world?

The truth is of course that our world of abudance (or at least those who live in such a world) has desensitized us to how the poor and hungry feel. And if that’s so, maybe fasting is a good way to develop a sympathy and compassion for the poor and hungry.

I think I will try in future to partake in fasting during the day during the month of the Ramadan with the Muslims. I need it. Do you?

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