What Are You Giving Up?

Lent’s here: What are you giving up? That’s the question every year, isn’t it? Chocolate or sweets is always popular. Nowadays I’m aware of a whole bunch of people who step away from Facebook or Twitter for these 40 days.

Go ahead and give up chocolate or sweets or TV or Facebook or whatever for Lent. Do it; really, it’s good for you.

These are all fine and good. As Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” Far be it from me to dictate whether something you choose to give up is good or bad. Though, I would be remiss to fail to remind you that none of this will affect how our Lord looks at you: He sees Jesus, giving up His very life for you. God’s pleasure with you is not because you give something up; it’s because He gave up His only Son.

But allow me to encourage you to give up something more. Give up whatever it is that keeps you from being in the Divine Service every Sunday. Give up your meal plans or housework or whatever it is that drives you straight out the door after the Divine Service and keeps you and your children from the Sunday Scripture Study and Sunday School. Give up the distractions and hustle and bustle that keep you from stopping and reading some Scripture and praying every day, individually and as a family.

Lent is about reflecting on our weakness and sinfulness, and thus repenting. And that repenting can hurt. But the hurt is good; it’s ripping out the rotten cancer that’s leading us to put ourselves before God and our neighbor and not do those things which He desires of us. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

So please, allow me to offer this request and accompanying advice:

  • Put the Sunday Divine Service and Scripture Study on your calendar for the rest of February and all of March. Do it right now. Make it a non-negotiable appointment. It might hurt, but you won’t regret it.
  • After dinner each night, sit down with everyone in your household and have a devotion together. I’m not always good about this, either. I know from experience that it takes work to establish and sustain this habit. Remember, the devil and your old sinful flesh want you to watch American Pickers instead of being in the Word. But I promise: when you hear from God every day and pray to Him, your days will be better.
  • Ask your neighbors or coworkers how you can pray for them during Lent. It’ll help them, and it may provide an opportunity to talk more about Jesus; you might even get a chance to invite them to the Divine Service!
It is not good for Christ’s people to be absent from the Divine Service, to not be studying His Word together with their pastor, to not be reading and praying together as a household. Nothing good comes from this. We must repent of our distraction and laziness.

But every good comes when God’s people are listening to Him and receiving His Supper; when they are being taught by His pastors; when they are caring for one another in daily study and prayer.

So again I plead: come to the Divine Service, come to Scripture Study and Sunday School, devote yourselves daily to the word and prayer. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Dear Christians, what a treasure we have from Jesus! Let us use it as fully as we can during this Lententide, and always.