What Does the Bible Say About Ash Wednesday?

What is Lent and Ash Wednesday? Are these religious observances found in the Bible?
By Jason Jackson | Christian Courier

About six weeks before Easter, you may be asked: “Does your church celebrate Ash Wednesday?”

Or, “What are you going to give up for Lent?”

How should you respond?

Ash Wednesday is a religious holiday celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, various Orthodox churches, and some Protestants.

The holiday marks the first day of Lent—a forty-day period ending with Easter, not counting Sundays. Lent supposedly represents Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.

On Ash Wednesday, many will attend a special religious service. As part of that service, a person will wait in line for his turn with the officiating priest. The priest will then dip his finger into a bowl of watery ash and draw a cross on the individual’s forehead. Thus begins the forty-day period of Lent.

“Lent” comes from an Old English word that means spring season. In addition to an Ash Wednesday service, observing Lent may involve giving up something for a few weeks or some fasting.

Some practitioners take this seriously, others not so much (e.g., giving up soda on Fridays or depriving themselves of some other trivial sacrifice).

When you’re asked: “Does your church celebrate Ash Wednesday?” how could you respond?

First, this is an opportunity. We might reply, “No, we don’t. What is Ash Wednesday about?”

Demonstrating interest in them may open a deeper discussion about why we do what we do—or don’t practice something religiously. With a reply like this, you would be looking for a conversation starter—not a confrontation starter.

Second, consider a more direct response like: “Where can I read about that in the Bible?” The person might be surprised that Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible.

Third, Ash Wednesday is one day in the year that brings to light some fundamental questions.

Are we free to invent religious doctrines or practices? Is the Bible the only and final authority in faith and religion?

The Roman Catholic Church is founded on the belief that the New Testament is not the complete and final authority for Christian doctrine and practice.

Around the time of the next Ash Wednesday, you could share a link to this helpful article from ChristianCourier.com that addresses the crux of the matter. The article is titled What Is Sola Scriptura?

“Only the Scriptures” is a message that many family members and friends need to hear (cf. Col. 2:6-7; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Jn. 4:1-6; Rev. 22:18-19).