(Originally posted February 20, 2010)
That’s right. I”m not giving up anything for Lent. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Over the last few years I’ve heard much more about giving something up for Lent than ever. For some reason it has seen a resurgence not only among Christians, but in the secular world as well. On one popular afternoon talk show in Orlando, an avowed atheist and an individual from a Jewish background were discussing what they would give up for Lent. It seems that the practice has gone viral.
I have a problem with the practice on several levels. First of all, if you are going fast, even if just from one particular food or activity, you aren’t supposed to advertise it on social media or talk about it among your friends. Jesus said that if you were going to fast, it was something between you and God. You were to go about your day as if everything were normal. If you’re going to give up something for Lent and then whine about it for the next 38 days on Facebook, I’m going to block you until after Easter.
Next, God’s not impressed when people fast but then turn around and treat each other like dirt. Read Isaiah 58. The kind of fasting God’s interested in is one that helps other people, especially those who are hurting and going without some of the basics of life. When people who have little interest in church or ministry decide to fast, it means nothing. Why bother?
What do you think of this Lenten prayer by Christian Sine?
We have chosen to fast
Not with ashes but with actions
Not with sackcloth but in sharing
Not in thoughts but in deeds
We will give up our abundance
To share our food with the hungry
We will give up our comfort
To provide homes for the destitute
We will give up our fashions
To see the naked clothed
We will share where others hoard
We will free where others oppress
We will heal where others harm
Then God’s light will break out on us
God’s healing will quickly appear
God will guide us always
God’s righteousness will go before us
We will find our joy in the Lord
We will be like a well watered garden
We will be called repairers of broken walls
Together we will feast at God’s banquet table
Rather than giving something up, maybe we could start doing something new for Lent, something that makes God’s love real. Who knows? After forty days, it might become a habit.