What Does Sacrifice Mean to You?
By David Faust
The word sacrifice has been cheapened by overuse. Is it really a sacrifice to skip dessert or give up gourmet coffee? Baseball players call it a sacrifice when the batter makes an out but moves a teammate to the next base.
Sacrifices can be bad or good. Some workers sacrifice their marriage and children on the altar of their careers, while others turn down lucrative promotions in order to spend more time with their families. In Old Testament times, faithful priests sacrificed animals as prescribed in God’s Law while others drifted into idol worship and offered sacrifices to idols.
What does sacrifice mean to us today? Here are three questions to consider.
What have others sacrificed for us? America wouldn’t exist without sacrifice. Our nation’s founders pledged their fortunes and their sacred honor, and soldiers gave their lives to secure and protect our freedom. Who can measure the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents? What about all the ways we have benefited from teachers, ministers, public safety workers, and caring neighbors who put our well-being above their own? Do we appreciate the sacrifices of previous generations who constructed the schools where our kids learn and the buildings where we gather to worship?
During the Civil War, on November 21, 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed a letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Massachusetts consoling her for the death of her sons who served in the Union army. The letter says, “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
This leads to another question: What are we willing to sacrifice for God and others? Jesus insisted that his disciples “must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Are we willing to view our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1)? Are we motivated to do good and share with others, knowing that “with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16)? Are we willing to pray as David did in Psalm 51:17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise”?
Here is the most important question. What did Christ sacrifice for us? Imagine what it cost for the Word to become flesh and step down to earth. Christ exchanged the palatial glory of Heaven for the gloomy gutter of Golgotha. He endured multiple scourges: his nation’s rejection, the soldier’s whip, his friend’s betrayal. He took the blame for crimes he never committed and paid the penalty for our wrongdoing. The prophet predicted that the government would be on Christ’s shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), but first he had to shoulder a cross.
One sublime sacrifice changed the world—and changed us. “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). In all of human history, no other sacrifice has been so impactful or so costly. The hymn writer was right:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
Personal Challenge: Offer a prayer to the Lord in two parts. Thank him for the sacrifices he was willing to make for you. Then ask him what sacrifices you can make this week for the benefit of others.