Wooden cross in the Good Shepherd Chapel



Why give something up for Lent?

Lent 2018

During Lent it is customary to give up certain pleasures. This is not a command from God but is simply a discipline to help prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. So why do we give something up for Lent?

Some people try to take advantage of Lent by giving up things like sugar or candy. For them, Lent serves the double purpose of a spiritual discipline and a weight loss program. But that’s not the reason for Lent. People who do that forget the true meaning of Lent.

More commonly, Lent is believed to be a time when we are supposed to suffer for our sins, to help pay for the sins we’ve committed this year. Some people think that when we suffer, somehow we become better Christians. They too miss the whole point of Lent.

Because people do not understand Lent or, more to the point, the power of the Lenten journey, they do not participate. One of my disillusioned friends said “I’m giving up ‘Lent’ for Lent.” Lent is not a time to focus on our personal benefits, but a time to focus on God. Lent can be a time when you more fully realize the power of sin and your need for a savior.

When you give up something for Lent, it is not important whether you succeed or not. What is important is that you try. When I give something up for Lent I feel how hard it is to give it up. As I struggle to live without it, I become more aware of how weak I am. For example, the 8th commandment says “Do not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” so I try to give up lying for Lent. It’s much harder than you think. So what do I discover? Hopefully I realize that if I cannot give up just one small sin for 40 days, how much less can I give up ALL of my sins. I am forced to see that if my salvation depended on my ability to give up all sin, I would be totally lost. I would be lost, except for one thing. When I realize how impossible it is for me to give up all my sins, I am forced to turn to the only Savior there is.

Even though I am too weak to conquer sin, even though I am worthy of hell, someone has made it possible for me to have eternal life. That someone was Jesus Christ. He did this by being good when I could not. He did this by giving up all sin when I could not. He did this by paying the price of my sin and defeating death when I could not. That’s why when we practice the Lenten fast, it makes the Easter celebration all the more joyful because it reminds me that I DO have a savior, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Mason Okubo, '99
Pastor, Immanuel First Lutheran Church, West Covina, CA

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