Lent Challenge – “Sacrifice”
What is a sacrifice? And what it does it mean to the one who is doing the sacrificing?
The dictionary defines sacrifice as “give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations” as one way of looking at it, and as this is a Lent challenge, I think that is the one that today’s prompt is asking us to think about.
We are challenged during Lent to give up something that we value, and for most people that is something like a favourite food, alcohol, an activity they enjoy or similar. But what does it mean to do that? I saw a question posted on Facebook the other day asking was it ok to drink wine during Lent. The person who asked it had heard that you’re “supposed” to give up something for Lent and as she enjoys drinking wine, she assumed that it would be a simple thing to give it up. Except for the fact that she was at a party and others were drinking and therefore she was confused about the “rules” of Lent. I don’t think she knows why we give things up for Lent, and to be fair to her, I don’t think very many of us really get to grips why we do either.
For me, the purpose of Lent is to get closer to God and it is up to individual people how they do that. It might be that foregoing that nightly glass of brandy is a sacrifice for them, and if they can use that sense of loss or whatever by not having it to bring them closer to God, then my advice is go for it.
In recent years the Church of England has suggested that people might like to take something up instead of giving something up for Lent. More prayer, a course of instruction or study, a commitment to reading a certain amount of the Bible each day, offering to volunteer for the needy or to give to charity and so on have all been suggested, and for me, this is something which brings us closer to the idea of sacrifice than simply “giving something up for Lent”.
It might be that somebody might want to give money to charity. Now, if that person has lots of spare cash floating around and they don’t really need it spend their money carefully, then giving to charity might not be the sacrifice that we might expect of Lenten giving. However, if that money being given to charity would have been spent on something that that person really needed, or wanted then to give money in those circumstances is a sacrifice. The pain of the sacrificial giving is what brings us closer to God. But notice we’re not talking about specific amounts of money here, it’s the principal that matters when it comes to sacrificial giving.
But I’m not sure God would want us to cut our own throats financially just so we can walk closer with him for about six weeks in the spring each year. Well, not the God I believe and trust in anyway.
Which brings me to prayer. As I said above, the Church of England has suggested that we could commit more time and energy to prayer during Lent to bring us closer to God. But I can’t really see how that is a sacrifice. I mean, prayer is not supposed to be painful, and it isn’t supposed to make us feel like we have foregone something in order to achieve it. We are spiritual beings, and prayer is life to us! I would say that a real sacrifice, ie one that is meant to make us feel pain or loss, is where we choose NOT to pray during Lent…but that’s nonsense isn’t it?
As with the point about money above, I can’t believe that God would ask us to forego prayer time with him just because it’s Lent. No, I think the “sacrifice with prayer” thing would be more likely be that instead of watching our favourite TV programme or something we devote that time instead to prayer. So it’s not that we are punished by praying, but we do lose out on some pleasurable leisure time in order to do it.
All of these things that we can sacrifice in Lent all seem like small change really, especially when we measure them up against the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us when he died for us. He sacrificed himself on the cross so that we might live, but not only that we might live, that we have full and fulfilled lives too. No matter how much we give to charity, or time we devote to extra prayer and Bible study, no matter what acts of kindness and love we do for others, and no matter how we fulfil this Lent Challenge, the sacrifice that he gave outshines them all and puts things into perspective.
So to the young lady who asked about the wine – go and enjoy it, and when you are ready to think about things again, don’t beat yourself up over having a glass of wine or three, but start your walk with God again.
I’m sure he won’t mind.