Here we are again, rapidly approaching the misguided season of Lent. Lent is the made-up celebration of fasting for 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not counting Sundays. It’s supposedly modeled after Jesus’ time in the desert where He spent 40 days fasting., although He went without food, water, and shelter for 40 straight days, no breaks.
So at best, Lent is really a time for the believer to score spiritual points with himself, because the day is completely made up and not commanded in Scripture. In fact, there isn’t an ounce of Scriptural support for the practice. Furthermore, can anyone honestly say we are following Christ’s example in the wilderness as we remain in the comfort of our own homes, with plenty of other foods and beverages to sustain us, when He had none? The sacrifices made by the typical observer of Lent are really nothing but silly tokens compared to Christ’s sacrifice and make a mockery of Christ’s actual sufferings in the wilderness.
But alas, here we are, approaching the Lent season and all kinds of writers are doing their best to justify observing the event. Yet, when you look at what is being asked of participants in the man-centered ritual, it becomes obvious to ask the question of Lent observers: “Really, you only do those things 40 days of the year?“
For instance, the Rev. Sam Murrell, an Anglican priest in Little Rock, AR, writes:
Lent is one of my favorite times of the year because it forces me to take a close look at myself and my relationship with Jesus Christ. Lent reminds me of my need to rely on Christ’s grace and that I shouldn’t think too highly of myself.
The obvious question arises: Really, you only do those things 40 days of the year? It seems to me that those things listed should be done on a regular basis. In fact, those of us who believe in the ordinary means of grace would recognize the need for those things every Lord’s day when communion is served. (Full disclosure, I believe communion should be weekly, just as the preaching of God’s word is weekly, although my current congregation doesn’t practice weekly communion…yet.)
In preparation for Lent, worshipers are exhorted to fast and abstain from things that hinder their walk with the Lord. It should be a season in which we attempt to lay aside every weight and the sin that too easily captivates our hearts and distracts us from running the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
I just can’t imagine the writer of Hebrews thinking that passage is only relevant for the made-up Lenten season. The way Murrell presents it, we are only suppose to abstain from sinful things for 40 days of the year. Wow! Sign me up to be an Anglican! We can live it up 325 days of the year and only have to worry about sin for 40 days of the year (sarcasm alert). What does Hebrews say:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Notice the lack of reference to the church calendar? There isn’t one and the laying aside of the sin that easily ensnares us it to be done daily for then entire race, not just yearly. Murrell is searching for justification of the ritual and coming up empty. He shifts from stating what believers do traditionally during Lent and decides to add to it, revealing his hand, that Lent, has no real biblical support. Here is his suggestion:
I propose that instead of subtracting something trivial from your life like caffeine or candy, consider subtraction by addition. What do I mean? Consider temporarily adding something to life that requires you to give up some of your time in order to pursue it. For example, this year try to do something that will bring glory to Christ for the full forty days. Something with a kingdom focus.
Again, are you really going to do that for only 40 days of the year? Should we not be doing that on a regular basis? Should we not remove those things that hinder our walks with Christ daily? Should we not serve Christ daily? Should we not have a kingdom focus daily?
It’s like the proponents of Lent, and the church calendar, are admitting that they only expect Christians to be Christians when they have come up with a day to remind them that they are Christians, all the while ignoring the real day that the LORD has actually given us, The Lord’s Day. The only legitimate church calendar has 52 holy days on it, the first day of the week. Sunday is the holy day we are to observe. Any other such day is manmade, and not supported in Scripture. Yet, those who practice Lent, keep trying to convince us of its validity and fall dreadfully short.
Here is a portion of my earlier post on Lent to help remind us why we, as Protestants, should not give heed to the day.
The Bible alone is sufficient for all the we need in our spiritual growth. God has very clearly given us means of grace by which we can grow spiritually, the preaching of God’s word, the sacraments of baptism and the LORD’s supper, and prayer. Anything else is an addition of men. Such additions are condemned by most of the Reformers (Even Lutherans originally condemned the practice of Lent, but have now been drawn back into it).
Here is what R. Scott Clark wrote:
In other words, the very practice of Ash Wednesday and Lent are simply made up observances and this is the problem. It is not that one might not learn something valuable by abstaining from this or that for 40 days or that there is no value in gathering on Wednesday 40 days before Easter to remember the suffering and death of our Savior. The problem is that the human heart is an idol factory (Calvin). Once it is given license to create and impose Christian observances, it never ends. What begins with good intentions becomes a form of bondage. This is not a new problem. The Apostle Paul opposed this very thing in his epistle to the Colossians:
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles (στοιχεῖα) of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in a self-made religion (ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ) and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (Col 2:20–23; NASB95).
In the case of Ash Wednesday and Lent we have the very thing against which the Apostle Paul warned: “will worship” (ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ). Christians have added and imposed upon other Christians the very sort of abstinence and man-made religious practice condemned by the Apostle. The elementary principles (στοιχεῖα) to which Paul refers are not observations about nature (as some commentators think) but rather he is most likely referring to the fundamental principle of law. Someone was seeking to put the Colossians back under the law of abstinence as a mark of piety and Paul was not having it. This is typically the Lutheran explanation of the passage so it is striking to see leading (even confessional) Lutherans doing what their own tradition tells them they ought not.
Clark also points out that the practice was not adopted until the medieval period when the Roman Catholic Church had a holy day for almost every day of the year. And this is the problem. Many may think that it is harmless in celebrating something that has been celebrated over the past 500 years or so, but we should never bind someone’s conscious over man-made tradition, which Colossians clearly condemns.
In conclusion, let us lay aside those things that come about via the traditions of men, and hold fast to the holy days that the LORD has ordained for us. We have one holy day every week of the year. Those are the holy days we have been given.