Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Are you planning to give anything up for Lent this year? Some Christians do, others do not. Many Christians give up their favorite food or drink and most abstain from eating meat on Fridays during these forty days of preparation. Giving up our favorite foods is fine, but perhaps this year we could try something new. Perhaps this Lenten season, we could all abstain from devouring each other. Please read more.
Fasting and abstinence have long been part of the traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality. A fundamental part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance. (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30. 33:11-15; Joel 2-12: Mt. 3:2, 4:17, Acts 2:38). Fasting is the spiritual exercise of limiting oneself to only one main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence is the spiritual exercise of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent.
The Christian tradition of fasting and abstinence varies among the different Christian denominations. Jesus Himself said that His disciples would fast after His departure (Luke 5:35). Social media and news headlines are filled with hateful words towards one another. Today, I am challenging everyone to abstain from harmful speech during Lent.
Is it possible for us to stop devouring each other? We as a species are omnivores, meaning we eat meat and plants. Science tells us that we have molars for chewing plants like herbivores and we have incisors and canine teeth for biting, tearing and ripping meat like carnivores. Sadly, we seem to use these teeth to rip apart, tear at, and bite each other every chance we get.
Carnivorous animals eat other animals. Far too often, Christians seem to chew up other Christians as if they are our favorite food. We slice them up with our words. Look at what is written in Proverbs 12:18 “The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing.” We also find this in Psalm 52:4, “you are thinking up intrigues; your tongue is like a sharpened razor, you worker of deceit.”
The Bible has a lot to say about how we devour one another with our words and spew evil from our lips. Lent is designed to be a time of reflection. It is also a time of abstinence. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on our Lenten journey and reveal to us how we are misusing our tongue to cause pain. Take a moment to reflect on these verses.
“The mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips are a deadly snare.”
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit.”
“No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”
“The heart of the just ponders a response, but the mouth of the wicked spews evil.”
“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
As children we learned the saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This simply is not true. Words can cause great harm. We frequently regret the words that we say. We can use the season of Lent to hold back our gossip and insults and instead, use our words to build up others. Colossians 4:6 tells us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one.”
I encourage you to pray over these verses during Lent:
“A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one breaks the spirit.”
“A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge, but the mouth of fools spews folly.”
“Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
In James 3:6 we read that the tongue is also a fire. As a fire destroys a forest, our tongue exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire. Our tongue can make our life a blazing hell. James also tells us that if we can learn to control our tongue, we can learn to control every other part of our personality.
Finally, in Matthew 15:11 it states this, “it is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” I am encouraging all who read this message to accept my Lenten challenge. In addition to any other fasting and abstinence you may have planned for Lent, will you consider a 40-day challenge to abstain from allowing harmful words to come forth from your lips. It’s high time to curb our carnivorous appetite for each other.
Are you up for this challenge?
Heavenly Father during this season of Lent, please set a guard over my mouth, and keep watch over the door of my lips. Amen
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