Lent should be a season of giving back, not giving upPublished 9:03am Friday, February 28, 2014
By the Rev. Don Rose, Mansfield and United Lutheran Churches
“Are you giving anything up for Lent this year?” With Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent just a few days away, this question is being asked in many Christian circles these days. It has long been a tradition for many to see Lent as a time to exercise discipline and self-control by denying themselves something in their lives, i.e. chocolate, dessert, etc. Though the season is only 40 days long, it is not often any easier to keep these Lenten disciplines than it is to keep New Year’s resolutions. What starts with great zeal and dedication often runs out of steam very quickly.
As good as these acts of self-denial might be for the individual and his or her health, perhaps God’s people would be better served to look outside of themselves for the season of Lent and to discover others who are in need and to work on direct, concrete ways in which those persons might be assisted. The classic Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and the giving of alms or assistance were not just intended to improve one’s relationship with God. In addition, they were to improve one’s relationship with people and the whole of God’s creation. As a result, caring for others then becomes not just an act of charity but rather, more importantly, a witness to faith in the midst of a world that is self-focused to say the least.
Rather than a season for giving up, Lent can become a season of taking up ways in which God’s people can be of service to others by offering themselves through the gifts of time, talents and treasure to improve the lives of others. Lent is a good season for engaging in these opportunities as such acts reflect the self-sacrificing love of God as revealed in Jesus the Christ as well as it’s being a season that is short enough to make such commitments realistic, and yet long enough to make such practices habits of everyday life as children of God.
God’s people are encouraged to see Lent as an opportunity rather than a burden. It is a season of witness and service for the sake of the one who gave himself to be the redemption of the whole world. Use this season as a time to take up something new that will be a help to others. Trust God that it may change your life forever.