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Sunday Reflections: What did you give up for Lent?

Though I love the classic oldies of my college days, I have, in recent months, enjoyed listening to podcasts. Everybody seems to have ambition to podcast today. There are just too many to choose from and too little drive time to hear all I wish.

I like Megyn Kelly’s podcasts. She’s a good host with a variety of interesting guests. But she does have a “potty mouth.” I suppose the broadcast rules are different on satellite radio than on cable, so she feels free to spout expletives. Interestingly, Ms. Kelly tried to give up swearing for Lent. After Easter she played a montage from past weeks in which she began to swear, and then caught herself. I must say, it was funny.

The concept of Lent isn’t one we Baptists follow.

I heard about a schoolroom in a Louisiana parish in which a teacher went around the room asking boys and girls what they planned to give up for Lent. Their answers included candy, soda, complaining about household chores, fighting with siblings and other things. There was one Baptist boy in that Catholic classroom. He said, “We’re Baptist. We don’t give up nothin’ for nobody.”

The concept of Lent is based on the scriptural practice of fasting and is accelerated in concert with Jesus’s suffering leading up to the cross. Again, my denominational tradition doesn’t say a lot about Lent or fasting. We speak more about giving and praying, which are the other two disciplines Jesus talked about in Matthew 6. His counsel was to do all three privately as an offering to God rather than desiring praise from others.

I don’t think Jesus meant we shouldn’t pray or give publicly, since people of faith often do this. The question is about motivation—do we do what we do for the praise of others or for God?

Youth in one church I served decided to participate in a World Vision 30-hour fast to raise money for hunger ministry. It began at midnight Thursday and continued to Saturday noon. Of course they challenged their pastor to participate, and I did. I was good until Friday afternoon when I began to get really hungry. The materials we read during the fast explained we were feeling what most people in the world feel every day. And we had guidance on how to pray for ourselves and others. So we gained empathy and raised money for a good cause.

Fasting doesn’t have to be about food. The idea is that we give up something of value for a period of time, and that we seek God rather than what we’d normally spend time on.

Fasting is a helpful spiritual discipline, and regrettably, often neglected.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

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