Over the centuries, the Christian church has developed and has practiced several disciplines that help us to focus on Christ and turn from the secular world. Called spiritual disciplines, these are physical and mental methods that have helped Christians in the discipleship as they follow Jesus including such this as fasting, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, confession, sacrificial giving, and others.
Any time the church talks about giving, we should begin by reminding each other that God does not need anything from us. In Psalm 50, God talks about this very thing:
I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
God tells Israel that he owns the whole world. Everything is his, so he doesn’t need human beings to offer him a sacrifice. Instead, sacrifice was supposed to be a part of the discipleship of every Israelite. The psalm continues:
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
God’s view of sacrifice was very different from how the people around Israel viewed it. In the introduction to Sacred Killing:The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East , pg 4, Glenn Schwartz writes that Mesopotamians believed that human beings were created to give food to the gods. Sacrifice, then, was an exchange. The sacrificer gave the gods something, and the gods gave the sacrificer something back.
Giving is an opportunity to be reminded that we do not live by our own works but by what God provides us. I believe that is one of the reasons why God asked for his people to sacrifice perfect animals, often animals that are just a year old. This kind of sacrifice would commit a serious amount of wealth. Every animal they sacrificed was also meant losing their possible offspring. By offering a sacrifice, they showed that they trusted God to provide.
When we give sacrificially, we are forced to learn that God provides. To gain this benefit, we need to give to the point that it makes us uncomfortable. When we give what we can spare, we give only our leftover money. When we give enough to make us worried, it’s an exercise in faith. We trust that God will provide what we need to live.
God does promise to provide for all our needs. Jesus says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 6:31-32). God provides us these things.
The most important way that God provides for us is through Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Even if we have no home, no clothes, or no food, God still provides resurrection. When Jesus returns, he will give a perfect world to everyone where there will be no hunger or thirst.
Sacrificial giving helps to turn our hearts away from the things of this world toward God. Jesus says again in Matthew 6, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Our natural inclination is to turn our hopes on the things of this world. Life becomes a constant quest for more. But it’s not always more stuff. It can be anything for which money can be used as a tool. Money can buy travel so we can broaden our horizons. It can buy opportunities for our children. It can start a business. Each of these things calls for our attention and our hearts.
Sacrificial giving subordinates what money can buy to God’s purposes. When we continually sacrifice buying what we want, we remind ourselves that God’s work is more important. We give up taking in our things so we can give of ourselves.
Sacrificial giving also provides for others. Consider how we use the gifts we give to the church. Our offerings go to the church to conduct ministry. Through these offerings, we fund pastors who preach and teach. We pay for youth ministers and youth programs. These offerings help to preach the gospel. Giving provides for the spiritual needs of others.
Sacrificial giving doesn’t only go to the church, however. When we give, we can provide for people’s other needs as well. Personal giving can mean buying groceries, meals, clothes and whatever else they need. We can donate money to charities. Our giving helps others, and God uses that to make the world a better place.
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