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April 16, 2013

the nature of sacrifice

An acquaintance relayed to me a story of a trip he made with his family to an impoverished country in another hemisphere. His son, upon seeing the needs of the people around him, gave away nearly everything he had taken with him on the trip. As the story concluded, of course, I commented on the son's commendably generous spirit. “Yes,” his dad chuckled, “but when we came back to Canada, I had to buy replacements of everything for him.”

In contrast, a friend told me about a little girl who asked her parents if she could give her bicycle away to an immigrant girl at school. Her parents confirmed, “Are you sure that that is what you want to do? We will not be buying you another bike right away, you will have to go without.” That was exactly what she wanted to do; she gave away her bike.

Both stories sound altruistic. Both children gave gifts that were happily received. But one gave out of abundance, the other gave a true sacrifice. It makes me think of the story of the widow's offering: she "put in everything—all she had to live on"...and the God of all the earth took notice. Just because we are giving doesn't mean that we are sacrificing.

In our circles we bat about the word “sacrifice” without much thought. The term is familiar; to us a sacrifice is the giving up of something of value. But today's spiritual jargon forgets the graphic nature of "sacrifice" in the Old Testament. In Old Testament sacrifices, something often died. Multiple animals died. There was pain. There was blood. There was a mess to clean up. Then in the New Testament we see the ultimate Sacrifice, that of the Son—heart-wrenching pain, blood, death and separation. A life given up because "unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it remains alone." These pictures should frame our understanding of what sacrifice looks like.

A good question to ask ourselves on a regular basis is, “Am I dying anywhere?” Or also, "Am I giving to the Father anything that interferes with my comfort or ease?" "Do my offerings draw blood?" These sacrifices come in many shapes and sizesbut most often they come not without a scuffle, sweat, breaking and blood. May these deaths remind us why we are alive.

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about the widow's gift this morning as I did my study time. She gave all she had. What an example. He gave all He had. It's a challenge so easy to forget. I usually give out of my abundance. I don't usually give as a sacrifice. Two times in one day ... can't be a coincidence. :)