Lent is a “human tradition” that began with the Roman Catholic Church in the 4th century. It is a period of fasting and self-denial lasting 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. To some, it is a time where they can prepare themselves spiritually for celebrating the death and the resurrection of Christ; others go further in their thinking and believe it is a form of repentance that results in attaining blessings from God, including salvation. This teaching contradicts the truth that God’s salvation is a free gift that can’t be earned by fasting, self-denial, or any other form of good works. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this clear, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

As stated earlier, Lent is a “human tradition.” It is NOT commanded in the Bible so it is NOT from the Bible. Is it Christian? Though there is certainly nothing wrong with Christians practicing fasting or self-denial, to command it as a religious observance is not in keeping with Christianity. Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul to the churches of Galatia in Galatians 4:9-11, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” After Paul preached the gospel to the Galatians and many believed, false teachers came along teaching that it isn’t enough to believe to be saved, you must also keep the Law of Moses, including circumcision and observing holy days that were on the religious calendar of the Jews. Paul feared that some may actually be seeking to find favor with God through these legal observances. Sadly, there are professing Christians today who are doing the same thing; they are trying to obtain God’s favor by introducing human traditions such as Lent into Christianity.

What happened in Galatia was also happening in Colosse, for Judiazing teachers were making inroads there too and trying to put believers in Christ under the law by having them observe the Jewish religious calendar. Here’s what Paul had to say about that in Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Paul was basically saying, “Don’t let others condemn you for not observing Jewish religious festivals or holy days!” There are those today who would look down on one who does not “observe Lent,” but this verse teaches us not to allow them to judge us. Let us never forget that the believer in Christ is not under the principle of law, but under grace. Romans 6:14 declares, “Ye are not under law, but under grace.”

In conclusion, fasting and self-denial are good and should be practiced by individual believers in Christ as they feel led to do so, but to make it an official religious observance to be practiced by all in the church reeks of legalism and brings one into bondage. As those “under grace,” we need to heed the words of Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (165.2) (DO)