Ash Wednesday is just a couple of days away, and so the question for some of us is “What to give up for Lent?” I remember growing up, and I heard my friends in the youth group saying, “I am giving up pop or Chocolate for Lent.” And while I admired their sacrifice, I often wondered what the point of giving up those particular things was. Because after Lent was over, it never seemed to make any difference in their lives. They went back to drinking pop and eating chocolate, and the only value they ever seemed to receive was some practice of self-denial and some pride because they accomplished something.
So, why do we give up something for Lent? So, we can practice the principle of fasting. Fasting is about abstaining from something for a certain amount of time. This practice of self-denial forms us and teaches us and forms us as Christian disciples, and it reminds us of Jesus’ command in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Denying ourselves is essential to following Jesus. And thus the point of any fast is Christ-following. Let me say that again, the reason we fast from anything is so that we can be more Christ-like.
The Christian principle for fasting is this: We give up something, so we can be like someone: Christ. So, before asking the question, “What to give up for Lent?” We should ask the question, where do I need to be more Christ-like? If we need to be more Christ-like in the words we say to others, then we should give up cussing or gossiping. If we need to be more Christ-like in how we take care of our body, then we should give up pop, dessert, or even add exercise. If we need to be more Christ-like in how we spend our free-time, then we should give up SportsCenter or Social Media. If we need to be more Christ-like with our money, then we should spend less on ourselves and give more to others. If we need to be more Christ-like and less selfish, then we should practice fasting once a week, so we can focus on Christ meeting our needs instead of us meeting our wants.
The hope from giving up something for Lent is that it changes us after Easter. We realize how we didn’t need to spend that much time on Facebook, buy that many clothes, or talk about other people, and we don’t return to the same people as we were before Ash Wednesday. So, before you merely give up something for Lent, spend some time in prayer asking God how you need to be more Christ-like and then be prepared to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.