So……what are you giving up for Lent? Chocolate? Smoking? Soft drinks? Why are you giving those things up? Because you need to already? Because you need to lose a few pounds? What are you expected to get from this Lenten season?
Instead of giving UP something for Lent, how about just GIVING for Lent? Giving more time to prayer? To Bible Study? To serving other people? To making a difference in the world? Or just helping out your neighbor?
Matthew chapter six tells us how we should pray and give:
1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
If we practice our righteousness in front of others for all the world to see, then we are not truly sincere in our prayer and giving. These two acts should be deeply personal and kept between us and our Lord. Don’t rent a billboard and let the entire world know that you have given money or donated time to the homeless or needy. If you do, then you are only seeking attention for yourself and not for the glory of God. Give of yourself, give your time, lend your neighbor a hand. Help someone out who isn’t expecting your help, but who could benefit from a kind word or nice deed. Giving doesn’t have to be about money, but should be about giving of your time and of yourself to others and to the Lord.
What are you expecting to receive during Lent? What do you want? Where are you going to get it? Are you expecting to receive a blessing this Lenten season? If you are, what are you going to give up or sacrificing to receive your blessing? It’s not owed to you, you aren’t going to open the front door and find it sitting on your porch delivered by UPS or Fed Ex, and no personal messenger is going to bring it to your office. You have to go out and work for it, spread love and kindness to receive your blessing, share of yourself and your time, spend time with others and show them how God’s love can be a joyful and amazing force in their lives. Show them what a joyful and amazing force God’s love is in YOUR life. What we give up for Lent reminds us of what Jesus gave up for us. He gave everything so that we may have eternal life. We can give up a few hours or our time or a few dollars of our money so that others in need may feel loved and appreciated. Even if we do nothing more than just lend an ear to listen, or to sit and chat with someone who is lonely and who desires companionship, then we have done as Jesus did – we have given of ourselves so that others will not be without.
The glory of these forty days
we celebrate with songs of praise;
for Christ, through whom all things were made,
himself has fasted and has prayed.
Alone and fasting Moses saw
the loving God who gave the law;
and to Elijah, fasting, came
the steeds and chariots of flame.
So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
delivered from the lions’ might;
and John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became
the herald of Messiah’s name.
Then grant us, Lord, like them to be
full oft in fast and prayer with thee;
our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
and give us joy to see thy face.
O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
to thee be every prayer addressed,
who art in three-fold Name adored,
from age to age, the only Lord.
Words: Latin, sixth century;
trans. Maurice F. Bell, 1906