So today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or just plain the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. That brings up the question, "What are you giving up for Lent?" Now for some of you, this is a shocking question. You might think, "I am not Catholic. I don't have to give something up for Lent." And you would be correct. You don't have to give something up for Lent. You and I could go through Lent without ever giving up a single thing. In fact, I grew up in the Lutheran Church, in a family that never gave up anything for Lent. And we were just as blessed during the season of Lent as those who gave up something.
Why give up something for Lent? It is a spiritual discipline. It is an opportunity to discipline the body, mind and spirit. It is as though you are saying, "I am not going to allow this thing (whatever it is) rule my life. Instead, I will let Christ rule my life." And then each time you desire that thing (whatever it is), you meditate on your sinfulness, you desire for it, and then focus on Christ, what He has done for you, how He has died for you, how He has overcome that desire for you. Then standing in Christ, in His power and Word, you go about your day trusting in and living for Christ.
What does that mean for me? It means that when you think about giving up something for Lent, it really should be a vice, a sinful desire or something that is ruling you life at the moment. For me to give up smoking is a non-issue because I don't smoke. I also don't need to give up drinking for that is a non-issue as well. But overeating? Or the desire for chocolate. Man, that is more of a challenge because I love to eat and I really love chocolate. But wait a moment, I haven't been eating much chocolate because of the way I have changed eating due to health issues. So that wouldn't even be an issue. Maybe overeating, but even that changed after the gall bladder and heart issues.
So what could I give up for Lent? I am not going to tell you. Why? Because that is another aspect of this spiritual discipline. It isn't for bragging about to another person. It isn't meant for you to hold it out in front of others and show how "spiritual" and "pious" you are by what you are doing. Instead it should be a personal, private issue between you and the Lord. I take to heart the message of the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:16-18a ESV) Fasting (or giving something up for Lent) is a personal spiritual discipline that is between you and your heavenly Father.
Do I give up something for Lent? Yes I do. Not out of obligation but out of training the body. I will not be ruled by my body or my some sinful desire. Is it required of us as Christian? As Lutherans? No it isn't. You are no less a Christian or a Lutheran if you give up nothing for Lent. You are no greater a Christian or a Lutheran if you do give up something for Lent.
I might talk about this more in another blog. For now, let me ask you, "Are you giving up something for Lent?" Focus your attention on the action of your Lord for you and let your discipline take you to Christ alone.