Did you give something up for Lent? Why? Why not?
I find it amusing when people give up things that are entirely trivial. Chocolate. Soda. Snacks. Coffee . . . Now, wait. Caffeine might be more than trivial.
You don't have to give up anything for Lent. There's no biblical command to fast. But if you do, make sure it's significant, and make sure it's for good reason. Below are four reasons to fast.
Fasting is never a means to get God to do something. Nor is it to be done for health reasons. Nor is it meant to give an appearance of holiness. Jesus said that if you fast, keep it a secret (Matt. 6:18). This gets to the purpose of fasting.
Fasting is a way to focus the heart.
Jesus' words on fasting fall within the broader context of "the heart." Where your treasure is, so is your heart (Matt. 6:21). Fasting helps orient, or re-orient, the heart. It aids in the redirection of the heart's compass toward God. It helps us live the first commandment.
Deprivation of any kind brings clarity and focus. You remove distractions and obstacles. Hunger heightens dependence. Need exposes the necessity of God's provision. Any kind of fasting must first and foremost be directed to God. It must help you fix your eyes on him.
Fasting reveals things that control us.
When you strip things away, you discover the crutches you've been depending on. It's not that food (or others things you'd fast from) is bad. But good things can cover up bad habits. When you till the ground, the rocks rise to the surface. When you break your regular habits and routines, your blemishes are revealed. "I humbled my soul with fasting" (Ps. 69:10).
Fasting reminds us of our Source.
"Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). At the end of the day, God sustains us. Not a job, health care, or three meals a day. Our self-sufficient independence is not good enough. God is our provision. Our life is at the mercy of his Word.
Fasting helps us keep priorities.
Not only does fasting focus us on God first, it helps us put other things in perspective. Too often, non-essentials dominate our time and energy. (How many times do you check social media or email in a day?) Fasting grounds us in the core essentials of life. God. Family. Vocation. Service to neighbor.
Christians have always lived in seasons and cycles. Lent is one of them. We journey with Jesus to the cross.
If you give something up this Lent, let it be significant. And in your deprivation, look for the One who gave up everything for you.