The myth of Lenten sacrifice
As I’m sure most of you know, it’s the Lenten period. Many of my friends are giving up various favorites as a manner of sacrifice. The most common is sweets. My friend Jonathan (who is staying with me a few weeks) extends that from baked goods to include caramel lattes, maple syrup and sweet glazes.
It’s an interesting concept really. Is God really honored by the fact that someone is foregoing something that makes them feel good? I’d say no. At breakfast this morning, I listened to Jonathan purposefully not order a stack of pancakes and instead, get a spinach and feta omelet. We sat around a little wile after eating and I had a slice of toast with jam. Without thinking, he spread jam on a slice of toast and put it to his mouth. I stared at the jam a moment, enough to cause him to wonder what I was looking at. I said “nothing” and watched him eat the jam. Later at coffee, he ordered a plain latte and I asked “No caramel?” and he said “Nope. No sugar.” and I said “like jam?” I could see the realization overtake him slowly.
We then had a talk about what Lenten sacrifice really meant. I said the sacrifice was pretty meaningless. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that giving up something for Lent is a complete waste of time. At least as far as the sacrifice itself. Think about it… the Bible says no one is without sin and yet we’re to strive to live without sin. See a contradiction? I don’t, I think what this system is saying is that the striving itself has more value than the end result. To strive to be sinless is actually of greater to God than to actually be sinless (I know this is kind of a weird analogy in the fact that no wholly human person can ever be sinless).
So eating a piece of bread with jam on it isn’t really a failure of your Lenten vow when there was no intent to cheat. More than anything else the vow is more an exercise to force us to examine our motives and motivations… to cause us to be more self examining and help us to grow spiritually. So stay on your vow of no cookies… but don’t despair if the taste of sugar passes your lips a couple of times in the 40 days.