March 2015

The Lent Problem

Yes, it’s that time of year when many of us give up something. Chocolates and alcohol seem to be the firm favourites when it comes to 40 days of abstinence. I’m absolutely sure that Jesus didn’t eat any Quality Street when he was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, so shouldn’t we too follow Jesus example and reject all chocolate?
(NB I used this line of reasoning on my children but with Pizza. ie Jesus didn’t eat pizza and therefore we shouldn’t either. For some reason, they didn’t think the logic held together…)

The idea of abstinence, of refraining to eat, drink or participate in an activity, is strangely at odds with our modern consumer society. Our economy is built around the idea that consumption is good. The more we buy, the more we eat, the more we are entertained, the more goods and service we purchase, the better it is. It is good for the economy which leads to an improved GDP, more employment, a higher tax intake. If we don’t consume, the tax intake goes down and there is even less money for the NHS and schools.

Apart from bus queues, people in our society generally aren’t good at waiting. When we want to have or do something the majority simply but it on their credit card. According to the (excluding mortgages etc) there is an average consumer credit debt of £6,322 per household in December 2014. We are a society that, by and large, only works with immediate gratification of our wants and desires.

And where is the church and Lent in all this?

One of the tasks of the church (that means you and me working together, not some distant organisation) is to hold a mirror to the society around us and model a different way of living. I know we are caught up in what happens around us, but what we have isn’t necessarily the way things should be. Jesus talked about justice and bringing good new to the poor and broken-hearted.

Lent give us an opportunity to question some of our motives, to challenge the status quo we find ourselves in. It may be that by giving up chocolate or alcohol, turning off the TV or missing a meal, we can begin to redefine who we are and how we function. You find what is really important to you. You never know, you just might find that as you a transformed, those around you will also discover that happiness and wellbeing doesn’t come through accumulating more goods and experiences.

It really is up to you if you give something up for Lent. If you do or don’t though, perhaps it’s time we altered some of our actions and habits, and become an example of not needing to consume to be contented.


March 2015