Should We Observe Lent?

Should We Observe Lent?

The television weatherman was forecasting a big snow.  I happen to like snow.  The news of snow was exciting to me.  I turned the television station to another network to see what they were forecasting.  That station was forecasting a small amount of snow.  That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I waited for the late night news and that weatherman said it would be a heavy snow.  That was great!  I took comfort in knowing I would soon see a beautiful snow-covered scene.  Sledding with the children sounded like fun already.  I was again excited by the prospect of snow.  Then I heard a weatherman on the radio say we would have rain that weekend.  How could that be?  I didn’t want to believe it.  Rather, I chose to believe the large snow predictions.  After all, I like snow and most stations were forecasting a lot of it!

Isn’t it curious how similar people act toward religion as I did toward the weather forecast?  I chose to believe the forecast for snow because that was what I wanted to hear.  Only one forecaster predicted something totally different.  In my mind, he must have been wrong.

Isn’t that how many people approach religion?  People tend to accept a doctrine based on what they want to hear.  For example, this is the time of year that many religious organizations refer to as Lent.  According to my encyclopedia, Lent is a forty day period before Easter to commemorate Christ’s forty day fast in the wilderness.  During this time period, these same religious organizations abstain from eating certain foods.  Older traditions forbid any sexual relations for these forty days though it is now considered by some groups as being an unlucky time to get married.  I must ask, is Lent a valid religious practice or is it something we observe because it is something we want to hear?

I opened my Bible to the only reference that I could find on “lent.”  It is found in 1 Samuel 2:20 (KJV).  Clearly, that reference has nothing to do with today’s observance of Lent.  So where did Lent come from and why do we observe it?

The simple answer to this question is that erring people have invented this observance as a tradition and have bound certain “acceptable conduct” in its observance on everyone.  I refer to those who observe Lent as erring because there is no authority to observe Lent in the Bible nor is there any authority in the New Testament to require anyone to abstain from any foods.  What the Bible does say concerning such innovations in religion is the following: “Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9; NRSV).  “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:7b-8)!

Some people might ask, “What’s the harm in observing this tradition?”  Simply, when a religious organization requires the observance of any practice outside of those required in scriptures, they stand condemned before God according to the passages above.  Isn’t this counterproductive for a religious group to require people to practice anything that will condemn their souls?  Do we believe in the observance of Lent because it is what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4)?  Or should we accept God’s Truth?

The truth concerning the forecasted weather was a mere inch of snow.  The truth concerning the observance of Lent is that it is condemned as an innovation to God’s word.  Should we accept God’s word even if it isn’t what we want to hear?

By Steve A. Hamilton