I’VE SEEN MINISTERS get a little heavy-handed, at times, when it comes to prodding their people to fast or to give up something for Lent.
Though we’re near the tail end of Lent this year, let me raise a question about it. That’ll give you a year to ponder the matter.
Lent is a season of about 40 days leading up to Easter. Traditionally, many Christians have given up something for Lent. The practice is often sold as a spiritual discipline—a way of commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the Judean badlands, fasting before he started his public ministry.
I can’t find anything in the Bible that says we should give something up for Lent. In fact, the only Lent in the Bible is about borrowed stuff: “Repay the interest you charged when you lent them money” (Nehemiah 5:11, NLT).
Somewhere along the way, a long time ago, someone figured Lent would be a great lead-in to Easter: Give up something for 40 days, and then celebrate on Easter by diving back in.
Some Christians I know have given up:
- Coffee. I try to avoid them during Lent.
- Soft drinks. They’re not as bad, but they do complain.
- Desserts. They cheat and then lie about it.
- Dining out with the mother-in-law. Okay, I just made that up.
I can see why some folks might want to give up something for Lent.
It’s a way of trying to relate to Jesus, and a technique that gets us thinking about him and the suffering he endured.
But I can see why others pass on Lent:
- Lent is not a practice mentioned in the Bible.
- It’s somebody else’s idea of a good time, spiritually speaking.
For some folks in the pew, a sermon about Lent might come across as arm-twisting.
If you’ve felt bullied, or worse—guilty about feeling bullied—consider this passage as a possible defense:
“Don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. …If with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? ‘Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!’….Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important” (Colossians, 2:16, 20-21, 23, The Message).
I’m not saying folks who give up something for Lent are showing off.
Well, maybe some are.
But I am saying that no one should feel bullied into giving up something for Lent—or guilty about feeling bullied.
There are lots of ways to worship God.
For some folks, giving up morning joe is the opposite of worship.
Just ask the souls condemned to abide in their general vicinity.