Ash Wednesday is right around the corner and with it comes the beginning of Lent. Usually, since I am no longer working as a pastor, the season of Lent sneaks up on me. This year it has been much on my mind. I began thinking about Lent as I was pondering the multitude of luxuries we have in our lives. In this country we enjoy so many foods, goods, and services that would be unthinkable luxuries in other parts of the world. One that comes to mind right away is chocolate. Chocolate, more accurately cocoa, is not a crop native to the United States. Cocoa is grown mostly near the equator and is shipped thousands of miles before we buy it for a ridiculously low price (considering all that) and pop it in our mouths.
This led my wandering mind to Lent, since chocolate is something people often give up for Lent. It occurred to me that seeing chocolate as a luxury might be a decent reason to give it up for the season. There might be some real spiritual value in considering the luxuries we have and giving some of them up for a season, recognizing the relative abundance in which we live. It could be really powerful to get in touch with how materially blessed we are. We might even find out that giving up some of these luxuries is doable if it might benefit our neighbors who have less. Or maybe we will find out that some luxuries are immensely difficult to live without and find a greater appreciation for the challenges of daily life faced by many people around the world.
As I thought more deeply about this topic I realized that luxuries are present in every aspect of my life. My house is luxuriously large and luxuriously climate controlled by the world’s standards. Although my wardrobe is not a priority in my life and is therefore much less luxurious than some, still I have the luxury of multiple sets of clothing enabling me to do wash less frequently and toss away clothes with holes or stains, etc. Well, I could toss away clothes with holes. I just realized I am writing this while wearing a sweatshirt covered in holes. Again, clothing not a priority in my life. But, the point is I can eventually throw this shirt away rather than carefully mending it and I have other things to wear. I have indoor plumbing and an abundant water supply. Luxuries. Then there is the food.
We have access to foods from all over the world, in any season. We can enjoy tropical fruits in the middle of Kansas. We can get fresh vegetables in the middle of January. There are other exotic luxuries like the afore mentioned chocolate and the much desired coffee. And we don’t even have to cook it ourselves. We can eat at restaurants or have them deliver prepared food to our homes. We can buy prepared food in boxes and cans, frozen or fresh from the deli. Certainly all of this costs money but the cost is not too great to keep most of us from partaking with some frequency.
This is decadent luxury. It is worth taking a few days to let go of a few of the luxuries and ponder the injustice of a world where some can partake so greatly and others partake in starvation. It is worth making a small sacrifice that might move us toward greater sacrifices for the sake of those in great need. That sounds to me like a worthwhile commitment to undertake as we journey toward the cross of Good Friday.
I think I might give something up for Lent this year. Probably not my house, or heat, or my washing machine but there are many other options. Stay tuned to find out what I decide... and how many times I cheat. Strengthen my commitment by joining me in this. What luxuries could you give up?