A year-round Lenten season
March 2, 2022
The Lenten season, which is celebrated by many, begins today, March 2. Lent is based on Jesus’ 40-day and night wilderness fast when he was tempted by the cravings of the flesh (food – Philippians 3:18-19), lust of the eyes (materialism – Ecclesiastes 5:10) and pride of life (thinking too highly of oneself – Romans 12:3; Isaiah 14:12-15). These represent the temptations everyone faces (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; 1 John 2:15-17; Genesis 2:15; 3:6; Romans 3:23). To overcome Satan’s temptations, Jesus used God’s word (Deuteronomy 8:1-3; 6:13-18; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
The emphases of Lent are recognizing one’s mortality (their position before God – Isaiah 45:5-9; 64:8), leading them in repentance to draw nearer to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving or charity (James 4:7-10). All these are appropriate and should be practiced by Christians at all times.
The Bible says much about prayer as our means of approaching God in praise and petition (Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 4:14-16). In fact, we’re to pray continually about everything, even when we don’t know what words to use because God, who knows our hearts, also knows the reason for our prayer (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Peter 3:10-12; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 6:5-15).
Fasting, as a Christian requirement, is difficult to support from Scripture because no guidance or command were given for it (Romans 4:15). Yes, the first-century Christians did fast and pray on occasion, possibly as part of their worship, but we have few examples of it in the church after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23). Jesus did say his followers would fast in mourning when he was taken, but then he arose from the dead and promised to be with us forever (Matthew 9:14-15; 28:16-20).
Otherwise, when someone’s fasting, either individually or in a group, no one else should know (Matthew 6:16-18). Contemporary fasting likely pertains to something given up temporarily that may or may not be food-related, but it cannot be sin-related because Christians must try to avoid that altogether (Romans 6:1-23; 8:12-14; 1 John 1:5-9; 3:1-10).
The last passage cited refers to the third aspect of Lent – almsgiving or charity, expressed as doing good to others. This also shouldn’t be limited to an annual 40-day period because we’re to eagerly take every opportunity to do good for others (Galatians 6:7-10; Titus 2:11-14). Most people probably enjoy this aspect of Christianity anyway and practice it more at certain times of the year.
Lent wasn’t mentioned in the Bible and wasn’t officially celebrated until after 325 A.D., but we shouldn’t be judgmental about anything that doesn’t interfere with a command from God (Romans 14:1-23).
So, even if Lent only gets someone into the habit of prayer, giving up whatever distracts them from God (Hebrews 12:1-2) and doing good for others, all to glorify God year-round, it’s significant to God (Colossians 3:16). That’s the faith delivered to Christians in the first century once for all time, as given to the Holy Spirit-inspired New Testament writers (Jude 1:3-4; Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 4:2; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Are you living that faith?
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan who writes about faith for the Quay County Sun. Contact him at [email protected].