Can we please not tell each other what we are giving up for Lent?


3.4.14      Epiphany- Last Day

Matthew 6:16-23 (NRSV)

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!


This completes the trilogy of practices Jesus assumes his followers will engage consistently: giving to the poor, prayer and fasting. Implicit in his instruction is another interesting observation. He makes no reference to those who do not fast and pray and give to the poor. There is no apparent judgment. He does reserve his judgment for a group of people he refers to “the hypocrites.” They are actively practicing these disciplines, but they are doing it wrong. He gives no A for effort or partial credit. Yes, they are doing it in bad form, but it’s worse than that. They are acting like they love God, but that’s a facade, a mask. This group, “the hypocrites,” rather than worshipping God seek honor for themselves. Jesus seems to say it would be better to  not fast and pray and give to the poor at all than to do it like “the hypocrites” do.

In this particular text he speaks of fasting. Again, he basically says to keep it hidden. We are heading into the forty days of Lent, a season of devotion to God synonymous with fasting. People love to talk about what they are giving up for Lent or how they are fasting. And when we fast we love to find ways to remind people  what we are giving up, and then there’s the whining and the pining for it all to be over so we can get back to our daily $4.81 Grande 5-pump, no water, Chai Latte with a shot of espresso. (ok- guilty).  I don’t know about you, but I can pretty much “disfigure my face” about 10am when I haven’t had any coffee.

Ok– so let’s cut to the chase. I won’t tell what I’m giving up for Lent if you don’t. And I promise not to whine about it. Do we have a deal?


Resourcing people, communities, and movements to love the whole world with the whole gospel.