6 Things to Give Up for Lent

The 40-day period leading up to Easter has traditionally been celebrated as Lent, a time to fast and remember Jesus' suffering and temptation in the desert. It is the fast before the great feast of Easter.

If you're reading this after Ash Wednesday, no pressure! You can begin a Lenten fast at any time before Easter, although the later you start the less spiritually impactful your observance will be. I encourage you to start today, whenever that is!

According to a survey from LifeWay Research, a majority of Roman Catholics (61 percent) observe the fast, while only 20 percent of Protestants do so, along with 28 percent of self-described evangelicals. Those who attend church are more likely to observe Lent — 82 percent of regularly attending Catholics and 30 percent of regularly attending Protestants.

Here are 6 ideas for what to give up for Lent. (If you want more — and I mean a lot more — check out Stephen Smith's Twitter tracker at OpenBible.info.)

6. Tasty treats.

On Stephen Smith's tracker, chocolate cracks in at number 3, with 1,013 tweets on the subject. The more general "sweets" ranked number 6 (380 tweets), soda came in at number 10 (343 tweets), and "junk food" hit number 23 (149 tweets). Cookies took number 31 (109 tweets), Starbucks hit number 34 (102 tweets), and naturally ice cream hit 40 (80 tweets) and candy ranked 41 (78 tweets).

It seems generally most popular for people observing Lent to give up tasty treats, and that is indeed a good idea. Sweets are, in general, unhealthy, and Lent is a fast, after all. Christians believe that all food (unless sacrificed to idols) is licit, but one of the most concrete ways to make your spiritual discipline have a physical impact is by giving up treats. Indeed, for hundreds of years, Roman Catholics have given up meat for Lent — and falafel was actually invented by Coptic Christians who abided by this practice!

But sweets, soda, junk food, cookies, ice cream, and candy are also less meaningful than other things. The point of a fast is not to become healthy, but to come closer to God. Giving up these treats can be a holy discipline, but they can also become a temptation to pride. If you decide to give up chocolate, junk food, Starbucks, or cookies, make sure you don't start morally judging those who don't.

5. Alcohol.

The second broad category on Stephen Smith's tracker is alcohol. The drug itself took number 4 (861 tweets), with beer at 24 (135 tweets), wine at 38 (85 tweets), and liquor at 57 (58 tweets).