What Would You Choose to Give Up?
Lent, a Catholic tradition is a period of time lasting forty days. Commencing on Ash Wednesday, Lent marks a time in which those who keep or observe it prepare themselves for the celebration of the death (as tradition teaches on Good Friday) and resurrection (as tradition teaches on Easter Sunday) of Jesus Christ. This preparation, so tradition teaches, comes by way of the observer exercising abstinence from determined foods, various creature comforts or pleasures for the entire forty days.
No doubt you probably heard friends or co-workers talk about what they will be giving up for their religious observance of Lent. Maybe chocolate, maybe swearing, perhaps coffee or some type of food. Of course, someone invariably interjects with a comment like, “oh every year I try but eventually I just can’t do it – besides I’m sure God would understand.” Inevitably, most fall short in their attempt to give something up for the entire forty days. Dejected, some laugh in embarrassment while others mock their pious attempts.
The Catholic practice of Lent finds its origins in pagan and heathenish practices which date back to the second millennia BC. The practice of Lent was never observed by the 1st Century Church of God nor ever taught by the Apostles.
The Catholic Church officially sanctioned the practice of Lent in 360 AD at the Council of Laodicea. This new religious tradition was instituted, along with the many other pagan derived hybrid Christian holidays, as a means to conciliate pagans to Catholic Christianity and thereby appease the polytheistic citizens of the Roman Empire as they were coerced to accept the State’s new religion. Along with the many pagan religious practices observed by the Roman polytheists were those of fasting for forty days in honor of the goddess of the Babylonians and the observance of the annual festival commemorating the death and resurrection of Tammuz [photo above]. These two in combination became the basis for Lent.
Regarding the religious observances found in the Bible and given sanction by God are the seven annual holy days, of which we read in Leviticus 23. These seven annual holy days together picture God’s plan of salvation. Each holy day teaches a profound spiritual lesson, as explained through physical activity. God’s holy days promote both spiritual and physical blessings, spiritual and physical lessons.
In the early spring, the first two of God’s seven annual holy days occur. Called the First and the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, these two days are the first and last days of seven successive or complete days, in which those who observe and keep them are to avoid (give up something) eating all leavened products. In place of not eating leavened products, the adherents are to eat unleavened products. Notice Exodus 13:3–7 along with Exodus 12:19-20 and Leviticus 23:6-8. Here God makes the choice for you. Here God commands not only what you shall not eat for seven days, but also what you shall eat for seven days. What God then requires of you, is that you make the choice to do what He commands. And you stick with it for seven complete days.
Consider the profound differences between God’s Spring Holy Days and the counterfeit religious practice of Lent. Notice how Satan (the god of this world 2 Corinthians 4:4) steals a little of God’s righteous truth and mingles it with paganism, with sensual and ascetic activity and with confusion. Satan masks God’s precious truth as he deceives humanity (Revelation 12:9). Consider the deceptions Satan promotes.
Consider the practice of “giving something up.” During Lent, the individual “chooses to give up something.” This practice is contrary to God’s will. As taught by keeping the Seven Days of Unleavened Bread, God commands what you should give up. God explains what and why. God teaches you why you are to give up leavening and the benefits which are derived from giving it up.
Consider the differences in time-period. God requires a period of avoidance (giving something up) for seven days. Lent requires forty. Seven is symbolic of completion and perfection, of a certainty of ending and success, of rest. Forty is symbolic of trial and testing, of struggle and uncertainty. In testing, the outcome is not sure; doubt exists, discouragement results. That is why it is called testing. The Children of Israel’s forty years of wilderness wandering ended in failure. The adults who left Egypt did not succeed; they failed and as a result lost out on the blessings of the Promised Land.
Satan revels in trial, temptation, testing. Satan’s character exudes the desire for human struggle, hopelessness, insecurity, uncertainty. Satan relishes in the discouragement which is experienced by mankind. Notice it was Satan who tempted Christ (Luke 4:13) for forty days. Sounds similar to what Satan does to the deceived world as exemplified through the practice of Lent. Satan leaves many of the Lenten practitioners reduced to failure, year after year. They sadly try to avoid this or that and so often never make it. Certainly no character is ever built. In their attempt to “imitate” Christ and the forty-day trial he endured, the Lenten faithful go through forty days of struggle and all too often they do so in failure, because they don’t understand the trials He went through.
Just witness how often the “Lenten faithful” bemoan and detest these forty days. Interestingly enough, some Catholic priests are now teaching the new generation of Catholics that rather than giving something up for forty days, it would be just as appropriate to do a good deed. Because the struggle is often so discouraging, one can simply sacrifice his or her time or possessions. Notice again, whether giving something up or doing something good, the individual is allowed to decide for himself what he or she feels is right to do or what to give up.
Whereas God teaches what you must avoid (give up) and explains why you should do what He knows is best for you. Satan on the other hand deceives mankind into thinking that man is smart enough, strong enough, is capable enough to make his own decisions. Satan promotes self-dependence and blatant rejection of the will of God (Matthew 16:23). He is the father of lies and the deceiver of the world (John 8:44).
For seven days, not forty, we are told to avoid leavening. Leavening is symbolic of sin, wickedness and malice (1 Corinthians 5:8) and God teaches us that we need to get sin out of our lives; we need to repent. God defines what sin is (1 John 3:4). He knows what is right and what is wrong for us to do. His choices, His commands are reasonable and obtainable. Seven days of avoidance is manageable and meaningful and it symbolizes perfection, completeness and rest. God’s way of life, His choices lead to peace, righteousness and goodness in life. And in the absence of leavening, God offers unleavened bread which typifies the righteousness of Christ, the bread of life which we daily eat. Symbolically we remove sin from our lives and replace it with righteousness. For the seven Days of Unleavened Bread we demonstrate physically what we know to do every day of our life, not only physically but spiritually.
The practice of Lent reinforces the lie that man is “intelligent enough” to know what to choose. In effect, the practice of Lent promotes humanism, instilling the false concept that man does not need God’s guidance.
Whereas God uplifts and encourages, developing character and honor in His obedient and humble people when they keep the Seven Days of Unleavened Bread, Satan promotes capriciousness, leaving one hanging in uncertainty, festering in skepticism and dejection through the Lenten practice. Satan, in his subtlety promotes discouragement and failure (sin and death) in the practice of the forty days of Lent.
God knows better, He knows what is right for you in life. His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 18:30 and 19:7) He explains in symbolism, through the physical activity of giving up leavening for seven days what you should not do and what you should do, in life. Rather than just giving something up, God allows you to eat something in place of what you give up. Truly, there are no burdens when keeping God’s seven Days of Unleavened Bread. Keeping the seven Days of Unleavened Bread promotes nothing but success and peace, wisdom and understanding. The seven Days of Unleavened Bread teach us that we have peace in this life when we repent and obey God.
Commands Our Presence at His Feasts