Giving as a Lenten Practice

By Christa

“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6

Lent is a season of preparation, a time for taking stock of the state of our hearts prior to the remembrance of the death and resurrection
of Christ at Easter. The preparation has traditionally centered on three
disciplines: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, or as a Jesuit Press
puts it:

Pray.

Sacrifice.

Give.

As Elizabeth noted in her post last week, sometimes we hear
the most about the sacrifice during Lent—“what are you giving up?” But really
the disciplines are interrelated—we pray to empower our sacrifice, we sacrifice
to make possible more giving. Like God calls out through Isaiah in the above
passage, “Is not this the kind of
fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice?” What is your
sacrifice for? How can your sacrifice bring about justice for the oppressed?

In the spirit of this passage and within the Lenten
tradition, what if we used this season, this time of preparation, to give
materially toward fighting one form of injustice?

This would be a holy discipline that would not only connect
us individually to God, but would unite us to our community of local and global
neighbors, reminding us during this period that our actions impact others in
the network of economic and social relationships to which all of us belong.

Below are four ideas to contemplate for Lenten giving in the
time we have left before we celebrate Easter:

Donate the money you
save from fasting.
The most straightforward and traditional way to give financially
during Lent is to keep track of the money you are not spending on items you do without as part of a fast, and donate
that money to an organization you support or a person who would benefit from
some material support. As the desire for the object you’ve given up pushes you
toward God in prayer, it also joins you to others through your giving.

Quantify your time. You
might fast during Lent from habits that have consumed your time in ways you’d
like to change—from television or social media, from internet surfing or
workaholism. Give that time a monetary figure. What is the rate you would be
paid in your profession for those hours? $10, $20, $50? Add up the hours you
redirect toward other efforts during Lent and give away the “wages” they would have
earned.

Study an injustice. Thoughtful
giving that empowers
people
takes research. Some of the hours gained from foregoing specific activities
could be directed to gathering information about an injustice you feel
connected to, near home or in another country. Read about the closing of Boston’s Long Island
homeless shelter
. Check out the work that’s being done at MIT’s Poverty Action Lab. Think about
where you stand on the microfinance
debate
.

Change your buying
habits.
Everything we buy links us to producers near us or far away in
economic relationships. We have little choice but to participate in the economy
to some extent, but we can make decisions about how we spend our money and the
types of products we buy. Choose something that is a need (not a luxury item
that you may have given up for Lent anyway) and consider ways to purchase that
item that do not advance unjust systems and practices. Produce? Think about
buying local and in season. Clothes and basic housewares? Consider used options.
Use the days of Lent as an experiment in intentional and mindful buying, moving
away from supporting exploitative firms and industries.

What are you giving (not giving up) for Lent?

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