Is Lent biblical? Periodically, I get questions about that. I thought some of you might be curious about how I respond.
If you are unfamiliar with Lent, Ash Wednesday (February 13 this year) marks the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, it is a 40 day period of remembering and reflecting on the Passion of Christ. It’s a time for repentance and a time to prepare to celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection on Easter.
This past Fall someone left a comment asking me to justify Lent biblically and to provide at least 3 Bible references, preferably from the New Testament. Here is my reply:
If you are looking for some sort of specific biblical mandate for Lent, I don’t think there is one. There is no place in the Bible that says something like, “Go spend 40 days reflecting on the price Christ paid for your sins and at the end of it celebrate and give thanks for the resurrection.” In fact, “Lent” isn’t mentioned in the Bible.
One thing that came to mind as I pondered your request was that there are lots of practices/traditions that our common and helpful that really don’t necessarily have a biblical justification. For example, if someone asked me to provide 3 Bible scriptures (preferably New Testament) that justify having a weekly Family Night Supper, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or Summer Church Camp — I couldn’t do it. I could tell them all of the ways those practices help believers to learn, study and grow as disciples, but I could not offer them any specific biblical justification for the tradition itself.
Does that make those practices wrong and should they be stopped? Absolutely not, they can be valuable church traditions that function as a tool for the many things we should be doing as believers, i.e. prayer, study, worship, etc.
Similarly, Lent is a church tradition that helps people deepen their relationship with God. It’s a means or method for training in godliness and reflecting on the sacrifice made by Christ for our sins that we might be forgiven and have eternal life. 1 Timothy 4:8 is probably one of the most noteworthy passages on training in godliness.
In terms of training in godliness, specifically, Lent has always had a strong emphasis on recognizing our sin and turning away from it. It’s a time of getting very intentional about repentance. Christ himself preached repentance, Mark 1:15 and sent the disciples out to proclaim repentance, Mark 6:12.
In short, Lent like VBS, Family Night Suppers, Sunday School and a host of other church traditions is just a means of exercising discipline in prayer, repentance, and honoring what God has done in Christ. Any scripture supporting those things by extension justifies Lent.
I hope this helps. Thank you for posting your comment. I love hearing from readers. My apologies for the slow response. Somehow I didn’t catch your comment when you made it and just happened upon it this morning.
Have a Blessed Day,
While in many traditions people give something up for Lent, I have typically taken on a spiritual discipline. Last year for 40 days, I spent time in my prayer closet dedicated to praising God. I set aside all of my other prayers and immersed myself in pure praise. The deep connection that grew out of that time was the spark of inspiration and insight that resulted in my first ebook, “Tips On Prayer, A Quickstart Guide to Improving Your Prayer Life.”
Whether you are in a tradition of celebrating Lent or not, I would encourage to visit my Lent page. On the Lent page I have provide printable instructions on a variety of spiritual practices you can use to stengthen your relationship with God and improve your faithfulness. You can check it out by clicking HERE.