It’s that time of year, we’re getting closer to spring and to Easter, and the season of Lent is upon us! But what does that mean for us as followers of Christ, and is observing Lent biblical? If you’re anything like me, you might be asking yourself, “Should I participate in Lent?” So let’s dive in and find out the answers below!

Should I participate in Lent?

The basics of Lent

So let’s look at first things first. What exactly is Lent, is it a holiday, or what’s it all about? Lent is a religious observance traditionally practiced by Catholics and a few other churches. And according to Dictionary.com, it’s a 40-day season of fasting and penitence leading up to Easter.

Have you noticed that over the last few years more and more of your friends have started participating in Lent? Same here. It’s becoming more common to see other denominations, churches, and even individual Christians observing Lent.

People generally give up something for the season, such as watching a certain show on TV, eating dessert, or limiting their time on Facebook or Snapchat.

There’s also the fasting component. Honestly, I haven’t seen much of this among my non-Catholic friends, so it seems to be a component that’s more strictly observed by Catholics than Protestants.

So now that we’ve got a basic idea of what Lent is about, let’s look at the “why” behind it.




The reasoning behind Lent

According to the United Methodist Church, Lent lasts for 40 days prior to Easter in order to represent the time that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.

It’s supposed to be done with an attitude of reverence while anticipating the celebration of the resurrection. People give up something during the Lenten period, or instead they might do certain good deeds.

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So what does the Bible say about all this?

Let’s get straight to the point: the Bible actually says nothing about Lent. So technically, Lent is not biblical, meaning that the teaching doesn’t appear in the Bible.

BUT… does that make it unbiblical?

Well, let’s look at it for what it is. Lent is defined as a religious observance. And as we know, religions are belief systems that are created by men as a way to try to reach up to God. Which we also know is impossible.

What we as Christians believe is that God reached down to us in the person of Jesus, His Son. It’s not by any religious deed or ritual that we’re saved. It’s nothing of ourselves and definitely not of any good that we could ever hope to do. It’s a gift of God and we receive it by faith alone.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV)




We are to stop doing the things that grieve the Holy Spirit—sinful things, or things the Spirit has convicted us about. And we’re to do the things that please God, and not put off doing His good works—which is quenching the Holy Spirit.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. (Esphesians 4:30, NLT)

Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19, AMP)

As followers of Christ, we want to make sure that our actions are based on faith in Him alone, and not because of a ritualistic mindset. Good works should come out of the desire and joy of serving Him.

So bottom line, there’s nothing in the Bible about giving up something or doing good works for the season of Lent in remembrance of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.

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But just because it’s not an instruction to us in the Bible doesn’t mean that participating in Lent is a bad thing. I mean, celebrating Christmas isn’t in the Bible but obviously the great majority of Christians observe that.

The main thing is this: we need to be wary of anything religious that would have us look into ourselves and to what we might do. Whatever holiday or practice we observe needs to be pointing us toward meditation on Jesus and His finished work, not on ourselves and our deeds.

If during the Lenten season you find yourself more focused on your “suffering,” or more preoccupied with sticking to your self-imposed requirement of good deeds than with focusing on Christ, then Lent might not be something you should participate in.

So what about fasting for Lent?

We’ve already seen that Lent isn’t a prescribed observation in the Bible. And we’re not instructed to fast specifically in remembrance of Jesus’ time of fasting and temptation in the wilderness.

But God’s word does instruct us on fasting, and here’s what it says:

And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy and sour and dreary like the hypocrites, for they put on a dismal countenance, that their fasting may be apparent to and seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already. But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face, So that your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open. (Matthew 6:16-18, AMPC)

Woah. Okay let’s just take a second to let that one marinate. In fact, I need to just read verse 18 again:

So that your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.

Basically what we read here is telling us that if we’re going to fast, it shouldn’t be anybody else’s business but the Lord’s.

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So if we’re announcing participation in Lent, whether it’s fasting from food or something else… what’s the point of telling others what we’re depriving ourselves of?

The moment we broadcast that we’re participating in Lent, we’ve chosen to be noticed by men and not the Father.

So if we’re choosing to fast for Lent, this is something we seriously need to consider. We need to ask ourselves these questions:

What is my purpose for discussing my participation? Should I even discuss it if I’m doing it solely to honor the Lord?

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What’s your true intention?

So if you decide to participate in Lent, what is your true reason behind it?

Are you doing it for religious reasons? Because I’ll just tell you: that ain’t right.

Are you doing it to check off some good works? Cause that’s a wrong one, too.

Is it so your friends will think better of you? Still wrong.

Because fasting is great spiritually plus it’ll help you lose weight? Please, just—no.

Is it because it’s the perfect opportunity to start eating healthy? My friend, not the right reason.

Because it’s spring anyway and the timing is great for adopting a new habit? NOOO.




Because, if you’re not doing it for Him, should you be doing it at all?

Do we seriously think the Lord doesn’t know our hearts? He knows every thought we think. He’s always aware of our intentions regardless of what kind of action we’re taking.

And the intent behind whether or not we’re doing something is even greater than the behavior itself. Look at what Jesus taught us about the laws of the Old Testament.

He said that if we’re angry with someone, it’s like committing murder in our hearts, and if we look with lust, it’s like committing adultery in our hearts. (See Matthew 5 here.)

That’s a clear warning right there to look at anything we could possibly dare to offer as filthy rags before the Lord.

And then there’s Hebrews 4:12… What a reminder:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

God sees us as we really are. And He understands our intentions. Something to keep at the forefront of our minds when we’re tempted to participate in something for religious reasons.

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Why I won’t participate in Lent

I by no means judge anyone’s decision to participate in Lent. I know only what God has spoken to me about it through His word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Which is why I won’t be participating. Here’s why—it’s this question that I’ve had to ask myself:

Is God really glorified by my decision to give up something or change my behavior for a season?

That one sentence pretty much sums it up for me. Because the answer for me is a resounding no. That begs the question then, why would I do it? Oh I can tell you. It would be for myself. And that’s the absolute wrong intention for doing anything under the guise of honoring God.

From my understanding, the idea behind participating in Lent is that something is given up in order to deprive oneself so that we’re reminded of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. And to that I find myself saying, “How dare we.”

How could I dare to compare any such trifling thing to the love, sacrifice, and precious blood of my dear Savior?

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To give up a weekly coffee drink, social media time, or a favorite hobby with the idea that it honors Jesus’ shed blood for my sins feels almost blasphemous to me.

Well what if it’s something even more challenging… What if I were to take it to an extreme and sleep outside on the hard, cold ground for 40 nights? That would probably bring it to mind a bit more than just staying off social media, it’s true. But how self-righteous would I be to think it could possibly come close to honoring the price my dear Savior paid?

He is worth so much more.

Worthy of my devotion every day of my life.

Worthy of my reading His word every day.

Of going to Him in continual prayer throughout my day.

Of acknowledging Him and inviting Him into every situation in my life.

Worthy of my praise.

Of worship.

Jesus is worthy of more than my going 40 days without Starbucks.

And to do some good deeds for a few weeks just because it’s a “good thing” to do would be a sham. For me, it’s better to accept Christ’s love poured out for me at the cross and shed it abroad of my heart every day. In the ways in which He asks me to.

And because of what the Holy Spirit has shown me, my giving up Facebook or chocolate for 40 days would be a dishonor to my Savior. My friend, these are my personal convictions from the Holy Spirit. I’m simply sharing them to encourage you to examine your heart as well.




Instead of participating in Lent

In realizing that Jesus never instructed us to participate in an observation of His time in the wilderness, I recalled the thing that He did give us specific instruction to do in remembrance of Him.

For I received from the Lord Himself that [instruction] which I passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you. Do this in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25, AMP)

Of all the accounts of Christ’s life that we find in the Bible, of all His teaching, suffering, the time leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection, the thing that HE instructs us to do to remember Him is this:

Take the bread and the cup, eat and drink, remember His body broken and His blood poured out. For our healing, for our cleansing from sin, as the payment we could never pay, as the very love of God poured out and broken for us.

THIS is what Jesus instructs us to do in His word.

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So my dear friend, after considering the religious implications, the scriptures, the direct instruction we have from the Lord, where does your intention lie?

If our honest desire is to please Him, our service and devotion should spring from a heart of thankfulness. And it shouldn’t be for a mere season with a return to our old, comfortable ways of only acknowledging the Spirit as we feel inclined.

My friend, regardless of whether you participate in Lent this Easter season, I pray that above all you’ll remember and rest in Christ’s finished work at the cross.

Because ultimately that is what He died to give us… REST. Rest from religion. Freedom from working for salvation. Acceptance before the Father. Forgiveness because of HIS sacrifice, not ours.

During Lent or any other season, let’s celebrate what He’s done for us, and praise Him that we don’t have to meet any religious requirements, that we just have to accept His work at the cross and the empty tomb, because He has done it all!

“Finished!” (John 19:30)

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