Wednesday begins the season on Lent with Ash Wednesday.
This is a time of the year so many people give up something. There are many reasons for doing so. The reasons range from following Christ's example to making oneself better, to following the crowd - everyone else is "giving up something."
The tradition of giving up something for Lent has its roots in our doing something for God, rather than God doing something for us. This is what was required before Christ's death and resurrection.
While we observe the season of Lent as a time of sorrow and preparation in remembering what our LORD and Savior Jesus did for each one of us, we are not required to give up or deny anything for what Christ did for us. Jesus, "himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
Jesus' death and resurrection is a pure gift, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to sacrifice their first fruits to the LORD. They had to give of their best. This after all is what was going to happen when Christ would go to the cross - He is the only begotten Son of the Father who would be the final sacrifice for all.
Once Christ died on the cross and uttered the words "It is finished" (John 19:30) and the Temple curtain was torn in two, there was no more separation between man and God. We do not have to sacrifice to the LORD - Christ did it ALL.
Now, is there anything wrong with giving up something for Lent? No, not if your heart is in the right place. Is it being done for betterment? Is it being done for improvement? Is it being done to make a deal with God? When the item being given up during Lent becomes the focus such as "I can't wait until Lent is over so I can..." then the focus isn't where it should be.
Remember, our LORD doesn't call us to sacrifice to Him as was done in the Old Testament. He does tell us to "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). This doesn't mean just for Lent - this means at all times
If you are giving up something "for Lent," are you focused on what you are giving up or are you focused on the better person in the LORD you are becoming? If you are giving up something for Lent that has cost you money in the past, are you able to use that for the betterment of others?
One possibility of actions in Lent is performing an act of service for someone without their knowledge. By doing this, we make not only others better, but ourselves better as well.
How about you? What will you be giving up for Lent?
Vicki Helmling is a teacher at Grace English Lutheran School