Lent is a period of penance and abstinence observed by many Christians. Lent is an homage to Jesus’ 40 days spent fasting in the desert in preparation for His earthly ministry.. The period of Lent usually begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Maundy Thursday. Celebrating the season of Lent began in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea. This first gathering was composed of all the main Christian sects. Pope Gregory the Great created Ash Wednesday in the 600s, marking penitent Christians’ foreheads with ashes at a special service on that day. Wearing ashes was a biblical symbol of repentance and a reminder of one’s mortality. There is nothing written about Lent in the Bible, however it is a time of contemplation and repentance which is observed in reverence for the coming Passion season. God doesn’t require us to give things up in order to please Him, but it is a good time to look at our hearts, minds and souls and try to change old bad habits.
So in itself self-sacrifice isn’t wrong, it just isn’t necessary. Jesus came to earth for one purpose only and that was to redeem the human race from the chains of sin. He completed His mission and our sins are forgiven, but because we still hold the sinful nature in our human bodies, we need to come to Him daily and ask for forgiveness with true repentance.
Kind of like New Year’s Resolutions, we start off with good intentions, but often go back to our old ways within days, weeks, months or less. Just as fasting is a way to illustrate our faithfulness, it isn’t a necessary commodity in the process of our salvation.
So is it wrong to give something up for Lent? As with most traditions, they usually start with a good result in mind, but as time changes, so do ideas about old practices. The thing that God requires of us is that we believe the truth of the Bible and the price paid in full for our ransom. Even our very faith is a result of the Holy Spirit working in us. It’s all about God and what He’s done for us. Giving up is a personal choice and depends greatly on why you’re doing so. If the act of abstinence brings you closer to your Savior, this can help you admit your wrongdoings and thus demonstrate your sorrow over your sins. If you give something up to make yourself look better to others, you’ve diminished the work that Jesus already accomplished for you.
So what will you give up during this season of Lent?