If you could boil Christianity down to a single action that encompasses everything a Christian should do, it would have to be sacrifice. Here on Earth, our life is meant to serve God and to serve others. We’re supposed to emulate Christ, sacrificing for others like He sacrificed for us. But what does sacrifice truly look like? I think that in our modern-day American Christianity we’ve really forgotten what it means to sacrifice. We’ve become too used to our cushy lifestyles, we’ve lived too long with having everything we need (even if we don’t have everything we want). To us, sacrifice looks like giving up an extra hour during the week to go to a midweek service or giving our tithe or holding our tongue (or even our hands) when all we want to do is lash out. And while these are all important things to do, they’re not really all too much of a sacrifice. At this point, you may be wondering, “Well, Kyle, if that stuff doesn’t count as a sacrifice, what does?” And if you’re asking that, I’m really glad, because it means that this post was worth writing for you. So to answer your question, let’s take it back to the basics and look at some examples of true sacrifice from the Bible.
First, let’s take a look at the very first sacrifice recorded in Scripture. If you don’t already know, the first sacrifice we hear of comes from the recounting of the tale of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:3-5. It reads, “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord has regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (ESV). So here we see two kinds of sacrifices: one that God approves of, and one that he doesn’t. So what’s the difference? Why does God appreciate Abel’s offering more so than Cain’s? Is God just like the rest of us and prefers meat over pretty much anything else? Well, there are plenty of other Scriptural references of God accepting crops as worthy sacrifices, so that isn’t the issue. So what was the key difference between them? The Bible tells us that Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground,” and that Abel brought “the firsborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Did you catch it? The difference is right there: Abel brought the firstborn; Cain did not. But why does that matter? Why would God care if you sacrifice what comes first or what comes later, so long as you actually offer up to God what He deserves? Because one of the things that makes a sacrifice a sacrifice is that it is an act of trust. When you give up what comes first, you aren’t garuanteed what comes next. If you get paid and immediately set aside your tithe from it, that money won’t be there if you end up needing it later to buy that new gadget or fix your car or pay for a doctor’s visit or anything else. It’s gone, handed over to God. And if you sacrifice some of your precious sleep to get up early and read your Bible and pray every morning, you can’t get that back either. But if your “sacrifice” doesn’t require you to put your trust in God, how much of a sacrifice is it?
Thus concludes part one of this two part post. Look for the next part next Sunday, where we’ll take a look at a couple of other examples of Biblical sacrifice and come up with some ways we can change how we look at sacrifice and how it affects our relationship with God.