Matthew 6:16 And when you fast, don’t make it obvious as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting.
Fasting was a mandatory practice for the Jewish people once a year, but he Pharisees voluntarily fasted twice a week to impress people with their holiness. Jesus condemned this behavior. He wanted everyone to know doing the right thing for the wrong reasons moves us away from God.
Interestingly enough, my family was discussing just the other night what we are going to do or not do for Lent. TJ, my second child, piped up that he was going to give up his ipod for a whole year. Whoa there buddy. I explained to TJ the concept of giving up something for lent – the point was to give up something that was keeping us from God in order to become closer to God. He was insistent that a year of sacrifice would be great. Pete chimed in the conversation at this point, “What are you going to do instead of playing on your ipod, TJ?”
This caught TJ by surprise. He wasn’t sure what Pete was getting at. Pete started to pry out of TJ his intentions. “Are you going to play the xbox instead? Are you going to use that time to pray? Are you going to go outside and enjoy nature? Just what are you going to do when you aren’t using your ipod for an ENTIRE YEAR?
The fog was clearing from TJ’s mind. He was starting to see what his dad was getting at. “Oh, so you are saying that I need to find a way to use my time productively and responsibly, right?” I think at this point he got why an entire year would be a little out of the question for him to accomplish.
TJ is not the only one who does this. We all do. With good intentions, I do my best to give up something or many things for lent, but I forget that I need to use that sacrifice to become closer to God. For instance, I give up facebook for lent. In order to make this sacrifice show God how much I love Him, I need to use that time I would have spent on facebook doing something to show my love for God. Maybe I need to pray during that time. Maybe I need to read scripture during that time. Maybe I need to do a random act of kindness during that time. Whatever it is, I need to find a way to show God I love Him more than I love being on facebook.
Matthew 4:1-11 is the story of Jesus being tempting by Satan in the wilderness. These verses are meant to inspire all of us to overcome temptation. Lent is our 40 days in the desert. We are meant to conquer sin and increase God in our life. Reflecting on what is blocking us from God will enable us to push away temptation and make room for God. We do all this with the thought of the resurrection as the end goal. What better way to experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ than with our eyes wide open and focused on God rather than our eyes closed due to our sinfulness?
Matthew 4:3-4 says, During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
When Jesus was tempted by the devil, the devil was quick to point out that Jesus should use his “powers” to counteract his desires. Jesus rebukes the devil saying that there is a time and place for God’s divine intervention and this is not the time.
During Lent, we are asked to see that there is a right and a wrong time to satisfy our desires. In the Chronological Study Bible (NLT version) it states this, “Remember many of your desires are normal and good, but God wants you to satisfy them in the right way and at the right time…If we steal to get food, we are trying to satisfy our God-given desires in wrong ways.”
Before giving up something this Lent really think about why you are choosing that. What God-given desire are you using wrongly? How can you choose to satisfy that desire in a God-centered way? How can you make room for God in your life this Lent?