I’m Eating Rice and Beans for Lent


Shawn Kiger

iStock_000011957150SmallLent (The 40 days before Easter) sneaks up on me every year. I grew up in the church and have been a Christian all my life, so I should be prepared for it. But every year almost with out fail one of my youth will ask me a question that makes me feel like I am a terrible Christian. It happened again this year. They will ask what I’m giving up for Lent. They will tell me they are giving up soda or Facebook and want to know what I am giving up.

The idea of this practice of “giving something up for Lent” is that we give something up and replace it with a spiritual practice that helps us get closer to God as we prepare for Easter. Or we could give something up that we spend money on and donate that money to a worthy cause. These are good things that I support. The problem is: I usually don’t have an answer when my youth ask. Many of my youth are way better at this practice than I am.

This year my wife and I decided we would try something different, because neither one of us has a history of being good at this Lenten practice. Once a week we will have a simple meal of rice and beans. It’s not really about the meal for us. It is about connecting in a very small way with many around the world who eat nothing but rice and beans, or less, all the time. We also want to teach our two young daughters about how God wants us to treat the poor. We pick out a scripture verse and let our oldest daughter, who is six, read the passage to us; and we ask our youngest daughter, who is three, to pray for our meal and for those who have nothing to eat. Then we talk with them how some people live and how little they have. We can share with them the experiences we have had and stories about the people we have met on trips like mine with World Vision to Zimbabwe. I can share with them in simple ways the work that World Vision is doing. We also say God wants us to help. We know that they don’t truly understand all we are saying, but in their own way they understand compassion.

I also believe that our lives are often too comfortable and I forget those God calls us to serve. I get busy with family life and youth ministry and take for granted the easy access to food and water that I have. My hope is that having this simple meal once a week and hearing my daughter read a scripture verse will remind me that God doesn’t want me to forget. God doesn’t want me to get too comfortable, and God wants me to teach my children the same thing.

Honestly, I am also happy that I have something to tell my youth that I am doing something during this time of Lent! We got one week down, let’s see if we can make it the rest of Lent.