Today’s Christian seems to know precious little about sacrifice. Unless it happens as part of a play in baseball we almost never use the word anymore. The very idea of sacrifice is almost hideous. Our culture teaches us that we should never sacrifice but always accumulate more and more to our own immediate good.
We could sure learn some important lessons about sacrifice!
The Bible and Sacrifice
Soon after the sin in Eden (Genesis 3:1-6), we find the first sacrifice. Animals died so that mankind might be clothed (Genesis 3:21) to cover their nakedness which they now were aware of (Genesis 3: 7). In the next chapter the two sons of Adam and Eve are found bringing sacrifices to an altar to offer to God (Genesis 4: 3, 4). Later Jehovah God would give detailed instructions concerning sacrifices that the children of Israel were to present before him.
One key element of the acceptable sacrifices was the quality of the item offered. Leviticus 1:10 records that the animal to be offered was to be “from the flock” which eliminates the capture of a wild animal. The animal is to be a male, which in animal husbandry makes it more valuable. But the animal is also to be “without blemish.” The person was to offer the best that he had to God.
It is not that God needed the animals for he was and is the Creator. The purpose of the sacrifice was not so much to satisfy God as it was to teach mankind that we ought always give our best to God even when it is inconvenient.
The single greatest example came from God himself when he offered Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 10;12; 1 John 2:2). Nothing could be any harder, nothing any greater than the sacrifice God made for us. Should we expect to live a life without sacrifice?
The Christian and Sacrifice
The season of Lent is really rather embarrassing when you think about it. Should sacrifice really be limited to 40 days in the springtime? Have we fallen so far from God that it takes a special holiday to remember our own need to sacrifice?
The Old Testament practice of sacrifice does bear some parallel to our present day command to give “as we have been prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). But let us be very truthful. Most do not give enough to really claim they are sacrificing. It is not the purpose of this entry to discuss giving. Although we would suggest the Christians examine their budget to see if they are giving more to their cable TV accounts than to the Lord.
The real parallel with sacrifice seems to be in our lives. Ancient Jews were expected to surrender the very best they had to the Lord. Do we? Lest we think limit the idea of sacrifice to tangible “things” in our life, let us consider Paul’s words in Romans 12:1:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God which is your reasonable service.”
Paul speaks not of a financial sacrifice or contribution, but of a sacrifice of our lives. Is there anything in your life too precious to give up to God? Is there anything you love more than the Father? Let us return to the ancient teaching of sacrificing for the Lord and giving all that we have for him. After all, he did it for us didn’t he?