I’ve recently questioned what it means to give or to serve sacrificially, because I am not sure that I’ve seen it modeled well in America.
In America, there seem to be so little sacrifice for the church or for the cause of Christ. We’ve wrapped ourselves in a blanket of comfort called the American Dream and hardly have the capacity to sacrifice anything without being considered ‘radical.’ However, we do have generosity in America and in the Church. But their is a key distinction between generosity and sacrifice. Generosity gives out of abundance; sacrifice gives even when it hurts. As the old joke goes, for a chick to bring eggs to breakfast is generosity, but for a pig to bring bacon is sacrifice.
Ouch, right? Sacrifice is supposed to hurt. That’s the point. Generosity is easy and comes out of abundance. We can hand over our leftovers to the Lord. But sacrifice means our own suffering; sacrifice means hurt.
Just consider the Widow’s Offering from Mark 12:41-44,
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
I can’t read this passage without feeling convicted. It is hard for me to give out of my abundance, let alone sacrificially.
I think we have a very poor concept of sacrifice in America. Our concept of sacrifice may be living without cable TV, having a ‘dumb-phone’ instead of an iPhone, only getting Starbuck’s twice a week, or giving a few of our hours to help in children’s church. Sacrifice in America means giving up some of our comforts. But in much of the world sacrifice means losing your life. Sacrifice means giving everything, even though you don’t know where your next meal will come from. In light of this, how can giving up some of our comforts, and yet still living comfortable, be considered sacrifice at all?
Generosity might be a good place to start, but I think Paul had more in mind when he told us to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1), and I know Jesus had more in mind when he told said to “Deny yourselves, take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).