Many adults I know give up candy, chocolate, soda, and other things like that for Lent. I, in my spiritual superiority, used to look down at giving these sorts of things up as “childish” and even today I notice in several blogs and articles that others share the same view.
After all, giving up candy doesn’t bring a person closer to God, does it? That’s the sort of thing kids do, right? Aren’t spiritually mature and theologically versed adults supposed to do “better” things like... um… pray and stuff? Certainly my progressive and wise regimen of adding daily prayers, concentrating more on Christ’s Passion, and advancing myself spiritually is much more grown-up than something silly like giving up chocolate, right? After all, we are called to “put aside childish things” (1 Cor 13:11).
Clearly, one of the childish things I should have set aside is arrogantly elevating my actions over everyone else’. Who in the world am I to judge the holiness or maturity of your Lenten journey compared to my own? Doesn’t this self-back-pattery sound awfully similar to a certain Pharisee (Lk 18:10-14)?
The real question here is whether or not giving up chocolate and such is childish or if I simply perceived it that way due to ignorance. The answer is a solid “it depends”.
Is giving up candy childish if the physical hunger and desire it causes are used to bring a person into deeper union of Christ’s suffering? No, that’s not childish at all. Only a spiritually mature person can grow from ordinary suffering.
Is praying more and taking on spiritual exercises mature if the additional prayers are resented for taking time away from other activities? No, that’s neither mature nor beneficial. Doing something that looks holy “because I’m supposed to” is much more childish than doing something ordinary out of love for Jesus.
The level of maturity of another person’s Lenten sacrifice cannot be judged on the sacrifice itself. It cannot even be judged on the other person. It simply cannot, or should not, be judged. What business is it of ours in the first place? The only benefit I can think of from knowing another person’s sacrifice is considering if we could benefit from doing the same.
I suggest we each do what brings us closer to Christ (however simple or extravagant that may be), be open to new ideas each year, and always be honest with ourselves about our intentions.
God bless and have a wonderful (almost half-over) Lenten journey!