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Feb 23 2010

Lent – What Did You Give Up?

I'm NOT giving up chocolate

The season of Lent is upon us.  Most Protestant denominations do not observe Lent with the exception of a few.  Roman Catholics do observe Lent.  The observance of Lent is an act of penance which is marked by observers giving something up during this season.  Observers of Lent will give up anything from chocolate to coffee or anything that they might find pleasurable such as television or going to the movies, etc.  It is left up to the individual to decide what he or she would like to give up.  Depending on which church an observer belongs to, there are different observances or rituals associated with this season.

Guess what?  It is not in the Bible.  In the Council of Nicea in 325, a discussion of a 40-day observation of Lent was discussed.  It is not clear whether the original intent was designed for for new Christians in preparation for Baptism.  There is some mention that Irenaus of Lyons wrote something that mentioned some observance but it was only two or three days.  The Council of Nicea came up with the 40 day rule.

It is a man-made observance much like Easter and Christmas.  And the observances of Lent has changed over time becoming more relaxed.  A question often asked during this time is “what did you give up for Lent?”  I have actually heard people say “next year I’m giving up something easier.”  That would fall under the category of “missing the point.”

This is the problem with man-made traditions.  People go through the motions but it does not necessarily touch the person’s heart.  That is religiosity.  Yet the Bible does teach fasting and prayer but NEVER instructs believers when to observe it.  Man came up with that one all on his own.

Is there anything wrong with a believer observing Lent?  No, of course not.  I just wonder why we need a church to tell us when to fast, when to give up something, when to stop fasting, and all these other rules and practices.  Is not the Bible enough?  These observances become more of a “religious” observance as evidenced by people giving up something that does not “hurt” too much.

When we do fast or give up something, do it in accordance with Scripture.  Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).  Do not advertise when you fast.

  • 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:17-18 (ESV)

When I am asked what I gave up for Lent?  My answer is absolutely nothing.

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  1. Liz

    Thanks for sharing this. At My church tonight we have a small service for half and hour. I am going to remember this special important time leading to the cross. I will see what is said and am glad I read this post first.

    Only what we do that is seen by God in this area is of importance. Other wise it is for show and yes very fleshly.

    1. Tishrei

      That’s it – only what is seen by God is important. And what He sees is what is in our heart. If what we do is not matched and backed up by our heart, it is not seen by Him.

  2. Margaret


    A whole lot of man-made traditions were made in the Roman Catholic church….. I think they might have been trying to supplant the heathen traditions of the people who became Christians….. But, like you say, people just go through the motions….

    To me, the practice of Mardi Gras is gross beyond description, and totally without any decency….. I can’t remember how they decided to come up with that one….. It is such a mockery of our Lord.

    In our church, there is a mid-week Lenten worship service, which emphasizes Jesus’ suffering and death….. Repentance is also emphasized…. As far as a man-made observance goes, I think it is very good because it focuses on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins….. Resurrection Day needs to be celebrated in our hearts every day, and I do like the special resurrection service….. But, I totally dislike calling it the heathen name “Easter”, making a big show of new clothes, and the bunny thing, which is a mockery of the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice for us….. I could go on and on about what I don’t like about man-made traditions.


    1. Tishrei

      I will NEVER figure out Mardi Gras and how it relates to Christianity. I used to work for this engineering firm and we had this office in New Orleans. Needless to say, I learned way more than I ever wanted to about Mardi Gras.

      I understand what you’re saying and do NOT disagree with you at all. I think it’s harder for me to get in line with the set dates that man comes up with such as Lent. And as I look around me and see how people practice it, they are like me — they do it because their church tells them it’s time to identify with Christ’s suffering. After Lent, they go back to what they were doing.

      I call it Resurrection Day — as does my church. Whoever came up with the bright idea of naming His day of resurrection after a pagan goddess? Maybe they ate too much chocolate and hard boiled eggs when they thought of that.

  3. Loren

    Some practitioners of this are sincere about it. But many are not.

    My sister’s ex-husband is a Roman Catholic. I remember one year he decided to give up drinking beer for Lent. I was young and didn’t know much about the significance of the practice, so I asked him. He explained that it was all about identifying with Christ’s suffering and the sacrifices He made (the 40 days being a symbol of our Lord’s time of temptation in the wilderness).

    So, in other words, my brother-in-law’s idea was that he would emulate the indescribable suffering of our dear Savior by refraining from getting “hammered” for a month and a half. This to me seemed to be quite a mockery indeed.

    1. Tishrei

      Wow — I don’t know what to say. Giving up booze as a means to identify with His suffering. Two weeks? I’m guessing he didn’t replace it with something else.

    2. Repent Harlequin


      You should have offered to nail your brother in-law to a tree.


  4. Loren

    Oh yeah, almost forgot in my comment above. He only made it about 2 weeks if I remember correctly, and yes, there was a whole lot of talk about giving up something “easier” next year!

  5. Repent Harlequin

    Blog Lady T.,

    Nice to see you back.

    I think the structure of the church year aids some people in focusing, and I’m sure there are many people who are sincere about Lent as well as other times in the “church year”. When I was a new Christian, 11 years ago last month, we were in a church that followed the calendar and it was helpful to me for about that first year. After that it began to seem rather empty.

    Our current church will make mention of these times but we don’t change things around to “be in the season”. I would much rather come to a time myself when I say, “the next 40 days I’m going to do this” and not broadcast it telling everyone I’m doing this for Lent.

    That seems much more meaningful and intimate with God.


    1. Tishrei

      Hi Kent,

      I seriously don’t have any issues with Lent (see how much I have changed over the years :) )

      But it seems that people wait for the church to tell them when to do things and Loren’s comment is exactly why I was writing my post. There’s no need to wait for the church to tell us to fast or give something up. When we’re told to do it, many times it’s not what is in our heart but simply a way to obey and that leads people to a false sense of doing God’s Word.

      BLT :)

      p.s. I’m back but slowly. I’m taking my time easing back into blogging.

  6. PaulFan

    I am a Methodist and I gave up soda pop such as Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, etc. because I love it so. I have had occasion where I did have soda but have reduced my consumption by 90% since Lent began. After Lent, I plan to continue not drinking soda as I feel better and have saved much money by not stopping at the store for a bottle soda pop.

    1. Tishrei

      Hi Paul,

      Giving up soda is a good thing both for your health and wallet. As an FYI, I am not coming against the season of Lent at all. The thrux of my post was more on what is in our heart when participating in Lent. From my perspective, it’s more difficult to get into the “repentant” stage just because man set aside a time to do so. Again, really, honestly, I have nothing against Lent or what it represents.

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