Christians encouraged to give rather than give up this Lent

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has told Christians to use the period of Lent to serve others rather than give up their usual indulgences.

In his message for Lent, which begins today, the Rt Rev Bill Hewitt encouraged Christians to reject financial gain and the hedonistic lifestyles of some celebrities by humbly serving others.

Instead of pursuing individual greed, he urged people to sacrifice their time and talents in service to their neighbours.

“This Lent I’m calling on Kirk members to take something up, rather than give something up,” he said.

“Many people use the discipline of these weeks to give up chocolate or fish suppers or the likes, but I prefer the idea of Lent being a time of giving of ourselves in service to others.

“This runs contrary to a culture that suggests that the only thing that motivates people is money.”

He said the “selfish pursuit” of money had had a devastating effect on the financial sector, as he warned that following selfish desires would only lead to social and moral destruction.

“The 40 days of fasting and prayer before Easter represent the time Jesus spent in the desert overcoming the temptations to use power in the pursuit of wealth, fame and popularity,” he said.

“These same temptations face us today. Jesus chose to follow the way of God in humbly serving others and we should choose that way too.”

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, is also encouraging people to take up service, rather than give up chocolate or other favourite items this Lent.

More than 1,400 people have signed up to the bishop’s Challenge for Lent, a daily text and email service sending participants words of Jesus and the challenge to “Read it, learn it, pray it, do it” by committing themselves to acts of service for others.

Bishop Smith said: “Giving something up for Lent is still widespread in our culture, usually chocolate or alcohol or maybe for the more eccentric, something like shoes.

“But it’s easy to question what that’s for. It works better for some if they take something up, either instead of or as well as giving something up.

“In these more austere times, many people have given up a lot already.

The Challenge has been taken up by 17 prisoners at The Mount Prison in Hemel Hempstead, who will receive verses on laminated cards from prison chaplain, the Rev Phil Abrey. He plans to hold a group session each Wednesday to discuss what the prisoners have learnt through the verses.

Bishop Smith continued: “Challenge is a chance to discover that the words of Jesus are transformative and as radical now as when they were spoken.

“It is based on the idea that although the Bible is the bestselling book in the world, there are far too many Bibles unopened on bookshelves.

“Well, I’ve taken the words of Jesus out and brought people face to face with them, without anyone telling them what they mean, to let them encounter them at first hand.”