To Lose is to Gain

By Wendell Barnett

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. —Luke 9:23b-24 NIV


What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. —Philippians 3:8 NIV


Why do we give up something for Lent?

  1. As Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “Tradition!”
  2. It’s expected of you.
  3. You’re constantly asked, “What did you give up for Lent?” so you give up something just to have an answer.
  4. You want to kick a bad habit.
  5. Because Jesus did it.
  6. So that we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
  7. So that whenever we think of what we gave up, we remember to pray and be thankful.
  8. To help us remember that earthly things don’t have power over us.


All these answers are valid, but if they don’t go any further they fall short of the real purpose of Lent, and some, if that’s as far as they are taken, would even make a travesty of Lent. If one does Lent for nothing more than tradition, or expectation, or as an answer to an oft-asked question, don’t these reasons fall far, far short of the meaning of Lent? Even something as commendable as kicking a bad habit also falls short. It does so by making Lent merely a self-improvement scheme. In fact, to be blunt about it, if you use Lent merely to kick a bad habit, you make Lent all about you. Reasons 5-8 come a lot closer, but even those are missing something. If Lent is only about giving up, then it becomes a negative; something to be endured rather than experienced.


Don’t get me wrong, giving up is an important part of Lent, but giving up is supposed to result in something positive, gaining God. If one gives up something that is relied on or turned to instead of God, God is gained. If one gives up something that distracts from God; God is gained. For example, give up an hour of TV or social media in exchange for an hour of Bible study and prayer.


We’d all do well to follow the advice of William Arthur Ward in “Fasting and Feasting” (which I have shortened and altered). You can read a copy of the original here. 


Fast from judging others

Feast on God’s image in them

Fast from darkness

Feast on God’s light

Fast from polluting words

Feast on purifying words

Fast from discontent

Feast on gratitude

Fast from complaining

Feast on appreciation

Fast from negatives

Feast on affirmatives

Fast from pessimism

Feast on optimism

Fast from discouragement

Feast on hope

Fast from inadequacy

Feast on God’s all-sufficiency


Thank you for reading. We hope you will continue to join us as we continue on the wilderness journey.

© 2020 St. Luke UMC
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