When I was a kid, I dreaded Lent. I knew my mom was going to expect me to give up something delicious like chocolate or popcorn or complaining about my sister. Six whole weeks of deprivation! Seriously? What torture! Back then I counted the days, the hours ‘til Easter—not because I was eager to celebrate Jesus but rather because woo hoo!! I could finally dig my teeth into a Cadbury egg.
Hmm. Is that how we want our kids to appreciate the resurrection?
I don’t think so.
This Ash Wednesday, rather than arbitrarily assigning your children—and yourself—the task of “giving up” some desired thing, why not have a meaningful discussion about the why? Why do we sacrifice? What’s the whole point? Is it really torture or could it be—gasp!—enjoyable?
Here are three valuable talking points to discuss around the dinner table tonight.
- Sacrifice is a good thing. I know it doesn’t always feel good to give up something you want. But it makes God happy. Why? Because the world is not all about “me.” God wants us to think about other people. He designed humans to be in relationships with each other, and every time we practice thinking less about “me” and “my wants” and more about God and others, we grow up. We become more spiritually mature.
“not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4, NIV).
- Jesus sacrificed a whole lot more than we ever will. You think it’s hard to give up chocolate? Imagine giving up your life—on a cross. Making little sacrifices on Earth is one small way we can say “thank you” to Jesus for dying for us.
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25–26, NIV).
- Sacrifice is not actually the point. God says there’s something more important than giving up a favorite candy or television show. Do you know what it is?
And how do we show God that we love Him? We obey Him (John 14:21).
But wait! How do we obey Him? Oh boy, this the fun part! The Bible is filled with ideas on how to obey God. We obey Him when we love other people (John 13:35), when we act kind and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32), when we’re honest (Ephesians 4:25), when we share (Luke 3:11), when we sing (Colossians 3:16), and so much more! Spend some time as a family this Lenten season exploring passages in the Bible that talk about the many ways we can love/obey God. That activity alone will keep you busy ‘til Easter.
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).
One final thought. This year for Lent, rather than “giving up” a treat, consider encouraging your children to share it instead. For example, let your daughter buy that pack of gum, but only if she gives half to her little sister. And when little sister receives her favorite magazine in the mail, let her older sis read it first. And so on. This will teach them the value of both sacrifice and giving simultaneously—two behaviors that grow Godly character and make life more interesting for everyone.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16, NIV).