Easter season: Is "giving up something for Lent" ultimately a selfish thing?

by Howard Culbertson

     I've known people who give up chocolate for Lent. I've known people who give up Starbucks for Lent. I've known people who give up cheese for Lent. I've known people who give up . . . . well, you get the idea.
     People who "give up something for Lent" do so with the goal of being able to better reflect on the sufferings of Christ. I'm starting to wonder, however, if the giving up something for Lent is colored with tinges of selfishness (since it is aimed at bettering myself rather than serving others).
     "Giving up a want to meet a need" was a phrase coined by Rev. Elizabeth Vennum some years ago. Her brainstorming around that phrase led to what Nazarene churches know today as the Alabaster offering. That Alabaster offering is the denomination's international building fund. [ Alabaster offering info ]
     Elizabeth Vennum's phrase speaks to me during this Lenten season as people ask one another: "What are you giving up for Lent?" If you're giving up something during this Lenten season (the 7-week period prior to Easter Sunday), why don't you go the next step and "meet a need"?
     Why not take that money you would have spent on chocolates or Starbucks or cheese and give it to "meet a need"? Let me suggest Love Link ministries as a worthy recipient of your giving. Love Link is an inner city ministry reaching out to families and individuals in the needy central core of Oklahoma City. [ more info on Love Link ministries ]
     I'm on Love Link's governing board. In recent weeks we're feeding more families than ever, our addiction recovery houses are full and First Indian Church is bursting at the seams during services with people even sitting on the floor for the lack of seats.
     Jesus said we should deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Let's not let Lent be simply a season of self-denial. Let's make it a season of following Christ in the example of servant-hood.
     This Lenten season, why don't you meet a need? Don't allow "giving up something for Lent" to be just a selfish act aimed at improving yourself spiritually. Turn your giving up something into a chance to minister to others. Give up a want to meet a need. If you've given up something for Lent that has a monetary value attached, make a donation equivalent to that amount to Love Link today. Mail it to Love Link, 500 S. Western, Oklahoma City, OK 73109-1032. [ Easter Sunday devotional thoughts ]

Article appeared in April 2, 2003 issue of SNU's student newspaper, The Echo.

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Updated: February 7, 2019

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