We are at the beginning of Lent. During the Lenten season, the church calls to our attention the sufficiency of what God gives. It points to the sufficiency of God’s grace in the atoning work of Jesus. It shows us the sufficiency of faith in Jesus’ work for us. It makes known the sufficiency of God’s Word in faith and life.
But Lent doesn’t just remind us of the sufficiency of God’s spiritual gifts — the gifts that pertain to our redemption and salvation. Lent also reminds us of the sufficiency of the physical, temporal gifts of God which pertain to this body and life. In other words, it reminds us of the importance of godly contentment and of outward discipline and training of the body.
This outward training of the body teaches us not to give in to every desire of our flesh, but to learn to say no to them. And it does this in such a way that if you fail, it is no sin. It is a way to practice without putting yourself into a compromising situation.
Fasting is a good example of this outward training. When you fast, you are practicing saying no to the desires of your body. But if you fail in this, if you break your fast, you have not sinned. But you have learned something about how your flesh works, how difficult it is to fight against it, and how you need help from above to discipline the desires of your body.
Another example is almsgiving. An increase in giving to the church and its mission during Lent is also a form of outward training. We all know that our flesh finds security in money and stuff. By committing to give more to the church, you are training your flesh. You are, by this outward discipline, training yourself to be content with what God gives. You are practicing saying “no” to your desires. Again, if you fail, you have not sinned. But you’ve learned just how powerful your flesh is — it leads you instead of you leading it. You’ve learned how you need help from above in being content with what God gives.
This is why St. Paul instructs young Pastor Timothy in this way:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim. 6:6–10)
Our sufficiency is not of ourselves; it is in God. Let us learn this without sin by training our flesh this Lenten season.
– LCMS Stewardship Ministry: lcms.org/stewardship