Right now I’m reading Michael Slaughter’s new book Change The World. So far it is a great book and I really admire Slaughter for changing gears when he senses that God is moving in a different direction. At one point he writes,
“It is not acceptable to make doctrine and church meetings a substitute for sacrificial service.”
When I read that I found myself reflecting on the term “sacrificial service.” I don’t find our culture interested in much sacrifice. While we celebrate those who do sacrifice for others it seems like most of our lives are about avoiding sacrifice. To sacrifice means we are giving up things that we might not want to; things we care for, things we need, things we want. To sacrifice means we give them up, usually, for greater purposes.
That is not the message I get from culture, or many times, from the church. The message I continue to hear goes something like this: Jesus sacrificed, so you don’t have to. The message basically goes: Because Jesus gave himself up for us (which he did), we can have a good life with all of our dreams and desires. In fact, I just saw a video the other day where the tag line was, “What can God do for you?” Catchy? yes. I don’t think it is good theology though.
God is not our servant. We are his however. I believe Slaughter is right. If we are serious about our faith, our relationship with God, and being faithful to the gospel, there will be sacrificial service. It means we might be driving our cars a few more years so we can give the amount we are saving from car payments to God’s purposes. It might mean we take less expensive vacations, or put less in our 401Ks. It might mean we spend less time watching tv or entertaining ourselves so we can be available to God’s purposes. Whatever the case, it will mean we are giving up (sacrificing) something that we believe is important.
Culture tells us that it is okay to give to God’s purposes what we think we can afford. For most of us after we give to God we are still able to live at a very high level. In fact, we give to God only those things we believe we can live without. That is not sacrifice.
I wonder how the world would be different if those of us in the church began sacrificing more.