As a Christian, I am called to make offerings to God, sacrifices of praise and gratitude. I am told that I must die to myself and seek instead to live to Christ. I am told that my body is to be a "living sacrifice" and that I am not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2). I am told that this "living sacrifice" - this giving over of myself - is spiritual worship, and that God desires those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
We have so cheapened the meaning of the word "sacrifice" in our day. I "sacrifice" technology during Lent as an act of worship. I "sacrifice" my time to devote it to running my kids to ball practice or piano lessons. I "sacrifice" my one morning to sleep late in order to go to church. I "sacrifice" dessert in hopes of losing a little weight.
Folks, that is not sacrifice. That is inconvenience.
I think it's interesting that merriamwebster.com gives the following as the most commonly used definition for sacrifice: "the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone." What a thoroughly modern definition! We are such big babies that we think inconvenience, or delayed gratification, or helping someone else deserves a weighty term like "sacrifice"!
We are so easily inclined to give sacrifices that cost us little to nothing. We are Dollar Tree Christians, offering cheap trinkets and baubles to the God of the universe, and then having the audacity to speak of "sacrifice."
I am reminded of the widow mentioned at the beginning of Luke 21. She dropped two small copper coins in the offering box. Jesus said of her, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live one" (Luke 21:3-4).
The gift was not expensive, but it was everything she had. And there is no indication that she expected anything in return for her gift. That, folks, sounds like truly sacrificial giving.
Me, on the other hand - I'm prone to think I'm giving sacrificially any time I have to endure discomfort, or any time there's an alteration in my plans or a compromise of my standard of living or a deviation from my personal goals or a denial of my personal desires. But that is not sacrifice: that is simply inconvenience!
I am ashamed of how greatly I have inflated the value of my piddly little so-called sacrifices. My Dollar Tree Christianity has served only to exalt myself and to devalue the God I profess to love.
God, grant me the grace of repentance, that I may turn from the sin of offering what costs me nothing. Grant me instead the grace to give You all that I am and all that I have.