We may earn money from the products/companies mentioned in this post. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, read our Terms & Disclosures.
Here’s your comprehensive guide to know what to give up for Lent. Learn what Scripture teaches v what is church tradition so you can fast in a way that honors God.
Many Christians worldwide celebrate Lent leading up to Easter. While Lent isn’t specifically in the Bible, there are many Lent Bible verses and the traditions are steeped in Biblical teaching.
If you want to know more about it, check out A Christian’s Simple Guide To Understanding Lent. If you already know about Lent and what to know what you should consider fasting during this time, here’s a guide that goes beyond the simple options of food and social media.
Here’s your heart and Scripture guide on what to give up for Lent.
What To Give Up For Lent
While many Catholics (and even some Protestant denominations) have a fasting menu of what they can and cannot eat during this time, our family takes a different approach…and I’d like to invite you to join us.
But first, let’s look at what not to give up for Lent and the types of fasting that will please God during this time.
How Not To Fast For Lent
Traditionally speaking, people in the Old Testament would mourn by putting ashes on their heads, wearing sackcloths, tearing at them, and looking generally pitiful.
They did it to be more holy before God and to feel better about themselves. This is a law-focused mindset, that behavior will lead to favor.
However, through the prophet Isaiah, God revealed that it did not please Him. He saw their fasting, but He also saw how they treated other people. The state of their hearts and their lack of love for others made the Lord displeased.
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,Isaiah 58:3-5
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Fasting That Pleases God
Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine; it was turning religious tradition upside down and showing that the heart matters more than behavior.
This was not a new concept at all; it was what the Lord was showing centuries earlier when He declared the fast that pleased Him.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10 (emphasis mine)
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
…If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
Fasting is abstaining, traditionally from food. But here the Lord asks them to abstain from something else entirely:
- the yoke of oppression for those who work for you
- accusing others/being critical of them
- speaking ill of people
- not enslaving others
However, it’s not just a removal of these things. God was also calling His people to do something.
It wasn’t enough to stop being oppressive; the Lord wanted them to feed the hungry and minister to the hurting. He wanted them to open their tables in hospitality, clothe those in need, and give of themselves.
There was no keeping a distance between yourself and someone less fortunate; the fast that honors God was a sacrifice of comfort. The fast that honors God wasn’t putting on mourning garments and ashes, but rather dying to self and living as Christ to those in need of Him.
When you think about it this way, it sounds a lot like the Early Church of Acts 2…when the message of the Savior spread rapidly and thousands were saved daily.
So…What Should You Give Up For Lent?
That’s a really good question…and one you should truly pray about because I believe that it’s an intensely personal answer.
But for starters, we can take our cues from Isaiah’s words and give up unkind words, self focus, and excluding others.
We can give up the things that distract us from our call to love and glorify God, love and honor our husbands, love and disciple our children. We can give up the idols in our lives or things that distract us from growing closer to God.
The important part, however, is not just to do away with negative influences, but to replace them with positive!
Let this list inspire you…
8 Truly Awesome Things Christians Can Give Up For Lent
- Limit or cut out altogether the technology in your life that distracts you. While you can’t do without your phone, consider removing social media apps. You could also do away with video games, movies or TV shows, or other similar things. Replace that time with Bible reading, prayer, volunteering, or even fun time with your family.
- Overeating. Give up your extra snacks or unhealthy treats and remind yourself that you are satisfied deeply by the Lord.
- Gossiping. Give up talking about other people and instead make sure your conversations are focused on encouragement and giving life to others.
- Unnecessary Spending. Give up eating out, clothes shopping, and mindless spending and instead donate the money you save to supporting a missionary or filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
- Complaining. Perhaps you’re someone who sees the pitfalls in any given situation. Give up negative words and complaints in favor of thanking God for His provision and ways to trust Him.
- Sleeping In. While clearly you need sleep, consider waking up 20-30 minutes earlier during Lent to have extra time to read the Bible and pray.
- Reading (other than the Bible). Are you an avid reader? Consider giving up your time spend reading books and instead spend time reading through the Bible each day. Maybe you’ll read the New Testament through from start to finish! Or maybe you read so much you read the whole Bible cover to cover (or at least make a lot of progress towards that goal).
- Selfishness. Try doing something kind for someone at least once a day and make it something that costs you time and energy, so you’re truly stepping outside of yourself to bless them.