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Lent: Why it’s more than just giving stuff up

Photo of Pod Bhogal Pod Bhogal
3 min

The mere mention of Lent can conjure images of people giving something up – chocolate, wine or social media.

It’s not surprising that for many Lent is viewed as an arbitrary period of self-inflicted pain. A time when people choose to shun everyday sensual pleasures in pursuit of a higher spiritual plane.

While it’s true that Lent is commonly associated with giving stuff up, at Stewardship we’ve always believed Lent should be more active and positive – more selfless actions than self-denial.  Human religion tells us to give things up but the gospel tells us to enjoy God and his good gifts (John 10:10)  and, as far as our hearts are aligned with his, to live out the excess of our hearts’ desires. 

love microscope

Lent then, rather than being a dreary season of chores, can be an invitation to awaken and revive our hearts towards God. 

Show the world what God is really like

Lent is the ideal time of year to delve deeper into the heart of who God is, what he’s done and who he’s made us to be. 

God wants us to reflect his character to the world. This is why Israel was called to be a light to attract the surrounding nations and why, when the Holy Sprit came after Pentecost, Christians are instructed to go into the world and share the good news. 

Is God the divine killjoy who requires people to needlessly live a joyless existence or the God who exceeds in generosity, kindness and joy? Isn’t it true that ‘the Son of Man came eating and drinking' and that people accused him of being ‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ (Matthew 11:19)? 

knife and fork

Does God really want us to give stuff up? 

Or, rather, does he want us to show the world how life is supposed to be lived: savoring every aspect of his creation, extracting the pure joy out of it and, perhaps most importantly, showing others how generous he is in sharing life to its fullness with us. We are called to live out the excess of our hearts’ desires in as far as those desires are aligned with His. 

Change your mindset about Lent

As Lent comes around again you might be grudgingly thinking about giving up desserts or cutting back on your screen time. You might be adding steak or beer or Haribos to your list of cutbacks this year as you struggle to find something new to give up. 

Forget that. 

Turn it on its head.

Ask not what you can you give up but what you can do to show God’s generosity. What can you do that will display the heart of God that has brought you satisfaction, joy and a reason to celebrate Easter?

Maybe it’s a meal delivered to a neighbour in need. Maybe it’s picking up the litter around your street that’s been gathering for weeks. Maybe it’s something a little more behind the scenes like setting up a regular gift to your local foodbank or homeless shelter. 

Whatever it is, change your view of Lent today and start seeing it as a moment to consider the deeper invitation of God to reflect his character to the world. Lent doesn’t need to be reduced to a test of self-discipline or a demonstration of will power by giving stuff up. 

Lent has the power to radically reshape our priorities. It is about showing people Christ – the heart of the gospel – by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

More on Lent and generosity

As well as the archive of resources that you can use specifically for Lent, we also have a range of blogs and resources to help you think more clearly about the Bible and generosity.

You can also sign up to Generous, Stewardship’s monthly newsletter, for more news, updates and content on generosity and giving.

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Profile image of Pod Bhogal
Written by

Pod Bhogal

Pod joined Stewardship in 2019 having previously held several marketing roles, including Head of Faculty Marketing at Oxford Brookes University and Head of Marketing and Product at Scripture Union.

Through raising awareness of Stewardship’s services, he helps people explore the impact their generosity can make in strengthening the church and Christian charities. He’s passionate about supporting Local Church, Evangelism and Bible causes, with a particular interest in charities using digital technology to give people the opportunity to meet Jesus.