Giving Up Sex for Lent: Good Idea or Bad?

We have now entered the season of lent and for many Christians this means fasting from ‘something’ in order to pray and prepare themselves for Easter. Traditionally, people will abstain from partaking in something they normally have on a regular basis and then Sunday is their “feast day,” the day when they will enjoy whatever they are fasting from during the 40 days of lent.

A reader wrote us asking our opinion on the idea of giving up sex during lent and we thought it would be a great discussion. My personal opinion is that, as with so many other aspects of sexual activity in marriage, it really depends on each couple. I don’t think it is innately good or bad. While I would be more concerned if the couple wasn’t intimate at all for the entire time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, if the couple holds to the belief of including Sundays as a feast day 🙂 I can see how this could be a good thing for them if God was leading them to fast from sex Mondays through Saturdays during lent. The Bible even speaks to the issue of a couple abstaining from sex for the purpose of prayer and fasting so it’s not out of the realm of reason to consider it (1 Corinthians 7). Paul warns though to limit the time of the fast so that the couple isn’t tempted.

So my opinion is that as long as both the husband and wife agree to it, I don’t see a problem with this and can see how it could actually be a blessing to them. Sunday sex could be really awesome in a case like this.

So what do you think? What would your reasons be for fasting or not fasting from sex?  Do you think you could get on board with this? Do you think it could make your sex life better? Do you think it would cause you to pray more about your intimacy than you do now? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

12 Comments

  1. It would be really hard for me to fast from sex for this time period. I am just now entering into my awakening, in the past month. Before this, we would normally be once a weekers anyhow. So for me, at this point, it would feel like I was reverting back to old ways, instead of moving forward. Perhaps, if I wasn’t at the brink of the awakening, it would be a possibility. I don’t think that it is a bad thing to fast from sex, especially if both husband and wife agree. I do believe that when you came back together, that there could be more passion, and maybe be able to reach a deeper level of intimacy with one another.

  2. I’m not sure it’d work for me, either. While sometimes hubby and I engage in sex once a week (sometimes twice), using the formula in Lent and breaking from the fast on Sunday doesn’t work, seeing he’s not always home on Sundays.

  3. To me (even though I don’t practice it) the idea of giving up something for Lent is to get rid of something that takes your focus away from God. In a healthy marriage sex should be anything BUT that. Sex is not an indulgence its a gift from God. To me that is not something that should be given up in this way. Yes, I see the purpose of fasting it at other times to pray but not for Lent.

  4. what an interesting topic!!

    i like that i can see both sides of the “coin” … and agree with both of your points (Cinnamon Sticks and Maueren); gee, does that make me double minded LOL … JK.

    my question is: where is ‘lent’ talked about in scripture? i don’t mean ‘traditions’ of the church; but in scripture? i guess i feel ill-equipped to discuss much more because i’ve not studied ‘lent’ from the scriptural perspective; don’t get me wrong, i know what lent is; i went to church as a young girl (sporadically, 2x per year), so i know its a practice in the churches (Anglican, anyway).

    any script. references would be much appreciated.

  5. I do not believe there are any overt scriptural directives regarding lent. I believe that lent has developed because of tradition so it is an optional practice, but much good can come of it when peoples hearts respond to Him throughout this season. I am not observing lent this year, but I have many friends who are. 🙂

  6. That’s a good question. Hmmm. I know Scripture doesn’t talk about Lent, but my best guess is they’ve taken the idea of 40 days of fasting from the example of Jesus. Remember, he was fasting 40 days in the wilderness before starting His ministry on earth.

    My church occasionally does a 30-day fast, where members give up one meal a day. Granted, fasting doesn’t automatically mean refraining from food. I know I’d fail after day one :-P. However, I can and did give up a favorite food during one 30-day fast.

  7. I have to say I agree with you Maureen. I’ve never practiced lent and maybe I don’t fully understand it, but sex was designed by God for marriage, I don’t know how depriving yourselves from it would be good, or draw you closer to God.

  8. “In a healthy marriage sex should be anything BUT that. Sex is not an indulgence its a gift from God.”

    I do completely agree with this! But sometimes we can abuse the wonderful gift of sex, and it CAN become something that takes our focus away from God. Sex.. while usually a loving, intimate act.. can also become a very selfish, unloving act. I think that taking a week for prayer and fasting can help people get their hearts back in the right place. They can use the time to refocus their desires and build up some emotional intimacy with their spouse. Then they can come back together physically with pure hearts and renewed spirits!

  9. I was on a site (catholic.org) and read their FAQ about Lent, and it said this, “Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ

    I grew up Catholic, but we never really *went* to church. My idea of Lent during childhood was giving up candy for 40 days….Easter solved that when my basket was full of candy! In the past, I have given up biting my nails (only to start again) and given up caffeine (which I started back on again on Easter, and you didn’t want to be near me the entire Lenten season) To me, what you give up for Lent needs to be something that is going to draw you closer to Christ. Myself, I don’t believe God wants us to give up sex. I kind of like the definition above (and it may not be the Vatican’s stand on it) I feel that it is a time to reflect on your life and give up a sin or something that is keeping you from Christ. Now, giving up pornography or giving up being a refuser may be more like it. During your time of reflection, you should become more intimate with Christ, not looking forward to the day when you go back to what you gave up. Just my opinion. It’s worth two cents…. 🙂

  10. I can understand why a couple might give up sex for Lent. My DH and I were once talking about things which we are tempted to make into an idol and for my husband he said it was me. However, it’s not right for us…

  11. Personally I do not think any couple should give up sex for that long a time. (My reasons explained in the Last Q/A below)

    I being a practicing Catholic it isn’t just about giving something up for the sake of giving it up. Otherwise what’s the point?

    As an example I gave up Facebook for lent. I felt like it was sapping too much time out of my day and at the end I had nothing to show for my time. With the extra time I have been able to pray, read the Bible. spend the time I then spent on FB with my children and husband. I like to think of it as making a New Years Resolution, a way to step away from things to help bring you closer to Christ. By Easter I will have hoped to gain some better time management and priority. Also fully rejoice in the Easter season at the pleasure of social networking.

    After my below findings, I could see how a couple having sex every day might want to abstain one day a week for a penance. Reading the Q/A below it might make it clear.

    Anyway, I pray I am not hijacking this thread with my long comment. I found this information on the web and it really explains it well. I hope it helps!

    Q: Why is giving up something for Lent such a salutary custom?

    A: By denying ourselves something we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we are not slaves to our pleasures. Just as indulging the pleasure of eating leads to physical flabbiness and, if this is great enough, an inability to perform in physically demanding situations, indulging in pleasure in general leads to spiritual flabbiness and, if this is great enough, an inability to perform in spiritual demanding situations, we when the demands of morality require us to sacrifice something pleasurable (such as sex before marriage or not within the confines of marriage) or endure hardship (such as being scorned or persecuted for the faith). By disciplining the will to refuse pleasures when they are not sinful, a habit is developed which allows the will to refuse pleasures when they are sinful. There are few better ways to keep one’s priorities straight than by periodically denying ourselves things of lesser priority to show us that they are not necessary and focus our attention on what is necessary.

    Q: Is the denying of pleasure an end in itself?

    A: No. It is a only a means to an end. By training ourselves to resist temptations when they are not sinful, we train ourselves to reject temptations when they are sinful. We also express our sorrow over having failed to resist sinful temptations in the past.

    Q: Is there such a thing as denying ourselves too many pleasures?

    A: Most definitely. First, God made human life contingent on certain goods, such as food, and to refuse to enjoy enough of them has harmful consequences. For example, if we do not eat enough food it can cause physical damage or (in the extreme, even death). Just as there is a balance between eating too much food and not eating enough food, there is a balance involved in other goods.

    Second, if we do not strike the right balance and deny ourselves goods God meant us to have then it can generate resentment toward God, which is a spiritual sin just as much as those of engaging in excesses of good things. Thus one can be led into sin either by excess or by defect in the enjoyment of good things.

    Third, it can decrease our effectiveness in ministering to others.

    Fourth, it can deprive us of the goods God gave us in order that we might praise him.

    Fifth, it constitutes the sin of ingratitude by refusing to enjoy the things God wanted us

    to have because he loves us. If a child refused every gift his parent gave him, it would displease the parent, and if we refuse gifts God has given us, it displeases God because he loves us and wants us to have them.

  12. well said!


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