We’ve all made sacrifices before - whether it was giving up a hobby for ministry or giving up a few dollars as an offering at church. Not all sacrifices were physical, and not all sacrifices were made happily, but we can agree that all of them were made at a certain cost to ourselves.
Why, then, do we continue to make these sacrifices to God? After all, if we judge our actions by the world’s motto of ‘pleasure over pain, aren’t we being incredibly foolish?
When puzzling over questions such as these, it’s always best to turn to the very beginning, where the very first sacrifice to God was made by mankind.
The Very First Sacrifice
Most of us have heard about the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). Two brothers, sons of Adam and Eve, were presenting sacrifices to God. While Cain presented fruits of the ground as his sacrifice, Abel, being a shepherd, presented the fat of his firstborn lamb. It’s written that the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice while rejecting Cain’s. This led to Cain’s anger and jealousy, and although being warned by God, he went on to kill Abel, resulting in his punishment to be ‘driven from the ground’ for the rest of his life.
If we take this chapter for face value, some might argue that God was unfair to Cain - after all, why didn’t God accept his sacrifice?
Sacrifices in the Old Testament
If you take a look at the Old Testament, you’ll probably notice that there’s a lot of mentions of ‘sacrifices to God’ there. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelites, all sacrificed burnt offerings to God. Again, with many of the kings and prophets, they all sacrificed to God.
If we open up to Leviticus 1, we’re presented with the instructions that the Lord gave Moses concerning the burnt sacrifices of the Israelites. This chapter is followed by three others, all involved in the topic of sacrifices. These include both animal and grain offerings, with the method of sacrificing depending on both the type of offering and motive. For example, a lamb offered as a peace offering would be killed in front of the tent of meeting with its blood thrown on the sides of the altar, while a bull being sacrificed as a sin offering would have its blood sprinkled seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of sanctuary.
The main motives behind these sacrifices vary between thanksgiving/praise, penitence for sins, or self-dedication. No matter what type of sacrifice it was, it was a serious and holy matter.
We must remember that God doesn’t need anything that we may sacrifice to Him - everything we own, even our very lives, were given to us by Him. It doesn’t matter how much you give Him - He is not obliged to us in any way for our sacrifices.
What matters to God in a sacrifice is the attitude and state of heart of the giver.
But what exactly is involved in this state of heart? Let’s take a closer look!
- Sacrifice wholeheartedly
Google defines the word ‘wholeheartedly’ as “with complete sincerity and commitment.” The keyword being complete. The words that recur throughout the first four chapters of Leviticus are ‘without blemish’ and ‘firstfruits’. In simpler terms, everything we sacrifice to Him must be the very ‘best’.
When we look back at the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, we see that although both of them offered to the Lord, it was only Abel who presented the ‘best’ of his flock - the firstborn. Not only that, but it’s clear that Cain did not have the right state of heart, as seen by his jealousy towards and eventual murder of his brother. Even though animal sacrifices are no longer relevant to us, we must still sacrifice to God our best whether this means giving Him the ‘best’ of our time, the ‘best’ of our efforts, or the very ‘best’ of our lives.
- Sacrifice cheerfully
It comes as no surprise that the sacrifices we make aren’t always made with a happy heart. I know from personal experience that we usually feel as if a cheerful heart in sacrificing is too much to require. But the truth remains.
I recall hearing this quote from a sermon. “If we refrain our lust, without cheerful obedience to please God’s heart, it is not holiness. Obedience becomes a grievous yoke to us.”
When we sacrifice comfort, pleasure, or an easy life for God, our first reaction is to grumble. But, if we are to sacrifice to God, we must give Him our all - and that includes our emotions.
Whenever I complain about sacrificing my time and effort to help my mum, she always reminds me that it is better to not sacrifice at all than to sacrifice unwillingly. And the same definitely applies when we sacrifice to Him.
- Sacrifice all
A chapter I came across when reading Sara Barett’s book, Love Riot, was titled ‘Do You Love Enough to Give Everything?’ There, she mentioned a quote from an article that she had recently read, which changed her perspective on sacrifice to God. It read: “ ‘Lord, there’s nothing I won’t do for You. I will die for You!’ But I think Jesus is responding by pointing to places in our lives and saying, “Yes you are willing to die for me...but are you willing to let this thing die in you?”
Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that, “we know that the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14a), meaning that our obedience to Him must not be limited to purely external sacrifices.
Sara Barett challenges the reader with the following question: “Can you think of any areas in your life you’ve been afraid to give to God?” If I were to be truthful, there’s too many aspects of my life that I’ve been unwilling to give - my free time, my hobbies, even my comfort zones. But if we are to sacrifice our best for Him, we must sacrifice all.
There are many spiritual heroes who sacrificed status, comfort, and their very own lives for God. One of the most inspirational for me personally is an evangelist named George Muller. Although his early college years were spent selfishly for himself, he sacrificed his reputation, status, allowance, human support and appreciation - all for God. We must sacrifice our entire lives to Him - in both physical and spiritual aspects.
In the end, it’s only us individually who can make the decision - the decision to sacrifice our best and our all, with a cheerful heart. Don’t get me wrong - I guarantee (from personal experience) that the process won’t be easy, and it’ll cost you. But whenever we feel discouraged, we must remember Jesus- how He was willing to give up his position as the glorified Son of God in heaven to suffer on earth, and ultimately sacrificing His own life on the cross for our undeserving souls.
Will you sacrifice for Him?