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With a great sense of virtue too many people announce that they are giving up chocolate for Lent, but before you follow in their wake pause and think.

We need to remember that our actions do not stand in isolation – giving up chocolate has consequences for more than just the chocolate eater.  If all Christians were to give up chocolate for Lent imagine the impact on the cocoa growers, the manufacturers and the suppliers.  We forget that a product that may be a luxury to us is the means by which others make their living.  Saying we are giving up chocolate for Lent shows how little we think of the growers and suppliers and their needs.

Don’t give up chocolate but switch to one of the smaller fair-trade suppliers, like Divine or Traidcraft’s More Than range.  And don’t look for it in the supermarket but head to your nearest Oxfam shop or support your local Traidcraft rep.  Instead of giving something up you are making a positive difference .  Suddenly eating chocolate can be an action for a more just and fairer world.  And when Easter comes make sure you are eating a Real Easter Egg.

And in addition to this, is “giving up chocolate” really the most fitting way to mark the great season of Lent?  It may be a big act for a small child to do but for an adult? As we re-call our Lord turning his face towards Jerusalem and so prepare to embrace his death and passion, is the best we can offer is giving up a small piece of confectionary.

As we journey into Lent the challenge is how can we each be a more faithful follower of Christ, how can our lives more fully reflect the values of the Kingdom of God, how can we help the world be more fully shaped to the creators intention.

To give up gossip, cruel words, and hurtful comments now that would be more of a Lenten discipline.  What do I need to give up that, come Easter and beyond, I might be a truer and more faithful disciple – and might that not be a more fitting response to the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.  And more challenging still what do I need to take up to be all that Christ needs of me to be gospel for the world.

In keeping a good and holy Lent chocolate does even begin to cut each  Switch supplier and brand, yes, but keep the comfort food – we are each going to need it as we tackle the challenge of the things we really need to change in our lives.

When I meet the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread I will need to know in my heart that I have tried to make a real and lasting change this Lent.