How To Practice Lent

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:1

Don’t Prove Yourself

In chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus goes into the wilderness, and for forty days He is tempted by the devil with a host of things. He is tempted to show His power by turning stones into loaves of bread, and He is tempted to test the Lord by leaping from a temple roof. Then after being tempted to bow down for the kingdoms of the earth, He tells the devil to go away for He will bow to God alone. In the end, Satan’s goal was making Jesus prove Himself, and the same is true for us today as another Lenten season begins.

For those unfamiliar with Lent, it is a time where we remember the temptation of Christ and prepare for Easter with forty days of walking through the wilderness. Of course, our wilderness is not some desert in the Middle East, but it is an arid lonely place that echoes with the tempter’s voice. During Lent we begin to feel that our usual prayers are not enough, and we are tempted to bring the Lord a prayer that is long and very eloquent. And we also begin to feel that our fasting and giving are not enough, and we are tempted to abstain from more things and increase our funds to charity.

Jesus wants us to be ourselves.

Be Yourself

Indeed, the devil aims to also make us prove ourselves, but as Jesus showed His followers the goal is that we be ourselves. Later on in Matthew’s Gospel He talks about hypocrites, and He warns against their holy works or practicing their righteousness. To be clear, He does not discourage long prayers or giving more, for there are many people who are eloquent and generous with a humble heart. Instead, He puts down an inauthentic piety where our good works do not match up with who and how we really are.

Jesus encourages us to be ourselves while offering prayers, and it does not matter if we say two words or speak for several minutes. He encourages us to be ourselves in every fast that we take up, and it doesn’t matter how many things we put down on our fasting list. And finally He encourages us to be ourselves to be ourselves with giving, and it doesn’t matter how much we give or if we are not recognized.

God leads us to the wilderness to fellowship and commune with Him.

God Wants You

Truly, as it was for Christ, we are tempted by the devil to prove ourselves, and as we hear his voice in our wilderness we must hold fast to the Word of God. Through the Word we are shown that God is gracious, merciful, and abounding in love, and He does not desire our good works; instead the Lord desires us. In addition to being ourselves Lent shows us that God ultimately wants us, and He leads us to the wilderness to fellowship and commune with Him. And as we do these things we must have an authentic piety, where our prayer, fasting, and giving matches up with who and how we are.

While practicing Lent this year may we hold fast to the Word of God, and I pray that it would help us hear the voice of the One Who made the tempter flee. Christ who tells us:

Be yourself in prayer!

Be yourself in fasting!

Be yourself in giving!

Be yourself in every season!

Be yourself in all things!