We are in the beginning days of the Lenten season. We started on Ash Wednesday and will continue through to Passion Week. One of the aspects of this season is the idea of ‘giving something up for Lent.’ At our Ash Wednesday service I preached on that very subject (you can find it here: Rev 2v18-28). Within that message I taught as to why we give up food or drink or pleasure of some kind. We do it as a demonstration that our lives are not tied to creation but rather our lives are tied to the Creator. At the end of this season we pick them back up as a demonstration that we are free in Christ to enjoy (not abuse or abstain) but to enjoy our freedom in Christ. The discipline of self-denial is a wonderful practice and I would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider abstaining/giving something up for the Lenten Season (much to the dismay of my children *ahem*).
But as we do abstain, a word must be written for those who choose not to participate in this aspect of Lent. It is a word that should offer warning against those who make too much of self-denial. Here we can learn from C.S. Lewis. He writes,
If you asked twenty good [persons] today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old [they] would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has a lot to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. ~ Weight of Glory
As important as self-denial/abstaining from certain food/drink/pleasure is to the life of a Christian (especially during a focused season as Lent), it is nothing if abstaining is the end in and of itself. Food for thought (pun intended) as we head into the weekend and continue in the Lenten Season.