sacrificial giving

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A friend of mine and I were talking about finances the other day. No, not mutual funds or stocks and bonds, but rather the day-to-day mundane of staying within your means. During that conversation she mentioned that she heard a sermon that spoke of different types of givers. There was the obedient giver, who fulfilled the letter of the law: 10% given. There was the generous giver, who gave more than ten percent, but not in such a fashion to make him uncomfortable; it came out of his largesse. Finally, there was the sacrificial giver, who actually gave to a point that it truly was a sacrifice.

I think the meaning of “sacrifice” is muted in today’s society. The definition goes something like this: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. (Italics mine.) Today people “sacrifice” their latte by making one at home instead of buying it. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy coffee too, but I do wonder if that’s a misuse of the word, especially when we look at the historical examples of the word: Abraham and Isaac, the martyrs throughout the ages, Jesus.

At the risk of being radical, I want to examine what it looks life for me to give sacrificially. What do I prize? (Time alone. Yes, this extrovert is becoming an introvert since having children. Travel, especially when my world feels very small some days. People’s appreciation/admiration? Friendships. Jesus. Health.)  What’s desirable? (Coffee. Tea. Caffeine. Sense a theme? More seriously, exercise and time for me. Eight hours of sleep per night. A chance to write regularly. A chance to read regularly. Yummy food–read: scones.) Am I willing to give those things up for a higher or more pressing gain?

First, I need to know what my values are. I value knowing Jesus, who transforms lives. I value justice and mercy (and I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the latter more than the former). I value loving people through hospitality, through listening, through serving, because, as one writer put it, the last time I checked, God cares about people.

The good news is that my highest values sometimes overlap with my prizes and desires. The bad news is that they don’t always overlap. So am I willing to give up, to place up for destruction, if need be, the other ones? For many of them, the underlying issue is time. Can I choose to use time in ways that reflect my larger values instead of my self-centered ones? Can I choose to use my money in ways that reflect my larger values?

My challenge to myself (and anyone else who wants to join in) is to write how I spend my time and money for a week and look at it with an unbiased eye. I want to do this not out of legalism, but because of a desire to live intentionally. And until I’m honest about how I really spend my time and money I can’t change a thing. Frankly, true sacrifice isn’t easy for me. I wonder how I’ll feel once I see the numbers. I pray for discipline and grace to follow God when it feels otherworldly.

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