What NOT To Give Up For Lent
Everyone will soon be sharing what they will “give up” for this Lenten season. And whether you’re Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, or Lutheran, it is easy to predict that most people will choose silly things to “give up”.
Christianity Today posts a list from Twitter of the top 100 Lenten sacrifices, I’ll post the top ten here to show what I mean.
7. Fast food
These are great examples of what NOT to give up for Lent. Lent is not a 40 day long New Years resolution, yet this is what “fasts” like these above make it out to be.
Like all the Church Calendar, Lent is modeled after the ministry of Christ. Forty days, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring temptation by Satan before the beginning of his public ministry.
Rev. Steven Wilkins describes the abuses of Lent as such,
I know that traditionally, Christians have “given up” something for Lent and usually that “something” has been something they particularly enjoy. This may be seen as a form of “fasting” I guess, but if it is, it’s a very pale shadow of what “fast” (doing without food of any kind) really means. I understand the rationale for the practice, but given it’s very limited focus, it seems to me to miss the point of fasting in general and is easily metamorphosed into something like a “Pharisaical” act (i.e. “God surely must be pleased with me since He sees me foregoing my usual afternoon grande chocolate-caramel-cinnamon mocha latte with extra foam, which I’m absolutely dying to have right now!”).
The heart of Christian reality is a society – a trinity- of persons living with and for one another. Our Lenten sacrifices should remind us of how we have sinned against the Triune God, and our neighbor-not serve as some superficial monastic flagellation.
As we develop our Lenten sacrifices we should move away from petty moralism and understand that as a Reformed Protestant, Lent is going to look much different for us than for the Roman Catholics. The early protestants were accused by the Roman Catholics of having a faith that was, “too glad to be true,” as C.S. Lewis once said. The Bible tells us that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). If the gruesome cross was a joy, what does that say about his fast in the wilderness?
All of Christian living is joyous, not morbid. Fasting and somberness in themselves do not contribute to holiness, and the council of Nicaea even forbade fasting on the Lord’s day.
And if you fast, let your fasting and prayer be toward particular ends, particular needs, particular hurts, not vague feelings. Fasting does not benefit us. Fasting is a bodily posture. Just as you might kneel or lift your hands in prayer, so too fasting is a posture of humility and urgency… abstaining ought to always be pointed toward some sort of giving. If we celebrate Lent as a community it ought to be an obvious blessing to everyone around us. – Pastor Toby Sumpter
Remembering that we are to:
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (NKJV)Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.