“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV)
An online survey recently asked “What did you give up for Lent” They posted the top 25 most popular things to give up for Lent. The results were fascinating, and at times pretty funny. You can read the entire list at this link https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2014/03/07/the-25-most-popular-things-to-give-up-for-lent-online/
The number one most popular thing to give up for Lent? School (Pretty sure Mom and Dad, while they appreciate your devout spirit, won’t let that one slide) followed by chocolate, Twitter, Swearing (You probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway) Alcohol, Soda, Social Networks, Sweets, fast food and at # 10 Homework (Nice try Billy. But if Mom and Dad won’t let you give up school, they’ll probably insist on you finishing your homework).
By the way, giving up Lent for Lent came in at #11. I’ve never tried that. I’m not sure what might happen if we did this. It might open up some strange eccelsastical wormhole in the church.
If you look at the entire list you’ll notice a couple of trends. They divide themselves, for the most part, between what we put into our bodies (fast food, sugar, soda, etc.) and social media, which says something both to how prominent social media has become in our lives and a need to push back agaisnt it.
Most of the items on the list have to do with self improvement. I’m going to run the risk of sounding cynical, but I’m pretty sure a lot of what is given up for Lent has to do with us wanting to lose a few pounds before spring, and not so much with our spiritual journey. Even stepping back from social media so that we can be more engaged with the real world has to do with self improvement.
Not that there is anything wrong with self improvement. We can all use a little improvement. And stepping away from food that’s bad for us, even for a season is one thing most of us in America should do. If you don’t believe me, go to any State Fair and look around (bacon cheeseburger on a grilled donut with a deep fried snicker anyone?)
And as much as I use social media, it can pull us away from our loved ones and creates a false sense of intimacy. Curtailing that isn’t so bad either.
But having the self, even with the goal of self improvement, as the center of Lent is counterproductive to what the season is about. Lent is to be a time when we focus not on ourselves, but on God. We fast, or lay things aside, not out of a desire to look good, but to be able to lay even the good things of life aside and allow God to be first in our lives. It’s a way to say “We acknowledge all the good things in life, and they are good. But even good gifts can get in the way of our intimacy with God. And above all else we want you”
Taking this attitude doesn’t mean we change what it is we set aside. They could be the very same things. But the intention with which we do so changes everything. Rather than going into Lent reluctantly or giving up something out of duty, we find we enter this season with joy. We should end it with reluctance, knowing it means the world will again force itself into our time and thoughts.
Lent shouldn’t be a season, but a way of life. It’s a time that teaches us how to live. It sets a pattern for our lives where God always comes first. As we enter into Lent this year, instead of seeing it as a church season to be endured, see it as a lifestyle where everything in your life is set before the throne of God. Allow it to change how you live and think, not just how you look. Lent. It’s not just for a season.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><