If I had to sum up the overall concept of Lent in one word it might be the word "central." I offer this word as both a question and a statement. The question is ... "What is at the center of your life?" I hope this is a good question because I have been observing a lot about this concept.
Jesus talked often about this. He asked the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27) to sell it all and give the money to the poor ... was his focus on his stuff, keeping the law, accumulating power? Let's look closer at this familiar story.
1. Motive - The rich young ruler's motive is revealed at the very beginning of the story. His motive is central to understanding the point of the story. This young man was a 'getter.' He got things. He got wealth. He got power, probably because of his affluence. He was young but had accumulated wealth at a young age. As I view this man with a critical eye I wonder if the lesson here (partly) is to ask myself if I too am a getter. While I am not rich, young or powerful, I do have a propensity toward getting. I, like the young man in the story, might be very interested to ask, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" How do I "achieve," "do," "get" eternal life. This is a very self-focused question. "Self" is at the center of the man's motive. The center of this man's life is getting and possessing so that he might 'inherit' eternal life. I heard a statement from and old minister once ... he said, "In order for their to be an inheritance, someone must die." Where this man is centered on himself, Jesus asks him to get rid of those things that actually 'possess' him. Jesus said, "Dude ... you have to recenter your life so that you can find God, yourself and your place in this world." I wonder what Jesus might say to us? Are we getters? Is our focus on 'getting to' the land over yonder, or are we true evangelists who are concerned about other people knowing, growing in, loving and proclaiming Jesus? Look at our music. Go through the hymnal or our list of praise songs. How many are about reaching the lost? How many are about 'my' salvation? Another verse comes to mind ... "Those who want to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for me will save them! (Matthew 16:25)."
2. Meaning - Where does the rich young ruler find his 'meaning' or 'purpose?' Based on the story, he will not sell his stuff. It could be because he fears the monetary loss, but I wonder if it not because he will lose who he is? His salvation, his foundation and his center are his possessions. Jesus is not just asking him to sell out to make a point. I don't think Jesus gives one hoot about being right here. I think Jesus has love and admiration for a young man who is, at least on the surface, interested in eternal life. Jesus says, "If you are REALLY interested in eternal life, make it the center of your life. Make it your purpose. Make it your passion!"
3. Mission - In life, during Lent and just as a good personal practice, we need to know the mission. This young man's mission was keeping up his lifestyle and keeping the law. He was good at both. I think this is the context in Isaiah (64:6) when our goodness is spoken of as 'filthy rags.' So, what should our mission be? Maybe 3 things ... a) be focused (centered) on allowing God to bring us and others to Himself (Exodus 19), b) be centered on following (Matthew 4:19) God (He doesn't need my advice on leading) and c) be centered on a lifestyle that praises God (Psalm 66:4).
What is my motive, my meaning and my mission? Randy