You’ve probably heard the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” Most motivational speakers would say, “One bite at a time”, but who eats elephants these days? I propose an alternative answer: “Be sure that you get the elephant from one of those little boxes of animal crackers, so you can eat it in just one bite.”
Consider that, while Jesus’ voluntary choice to take on the punishment for our sins means that the historic system of animal sacrifice is no longer required, followers of Jesus are still called to make sacrifices (see Romans 12:1-2). While nothing that we would give up for Him comes close in magnitude to His sacrifice, and what He offers is far better in return (see Matthew 19:29, for instance), when the word “sacrifice” comes up, it still sounds like a big deal.
Sometimes, I wonder if we hear the idea of living (or giving) sacrificially, and are tempted to tune it out. When the obligation seems too big for us to meet, and the goal too far away from where we are now, we may think that it’s too much for us, and just give up.
However, what if our service is sometimes found in the sum of small sacrifices, instead? Maybe we can make small sacrifices for the good of the Kingdom of God on a regular basis, and not be overwhelmed.
Here’s an example:
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Hebrews 13:15-16 NASB
Although I remember it from an old camp song, “We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise”, the idea that worshiping God involves a sacrifice goes back to [at least] the author of Hebrews. Praising God is a sacrifice, even though it might not seem like a big one.
Think about it: giving praise to God might mean going to worship with other believers, instead of sleeping in or doing something else. That’s a sacrifice of time. Pausing to give God credit for His work in your life may mean that you get less of the credit, which is a sacrifice of pride and ego. Thanking God when things don’t seem to be going right means making a choice. That’s a sacrifice of not giving in to emotions.
Still, followers of Jesus who appreciate the greatness of God often find it no big deal to give God praise. If you ask them the cost of their sacrifice to praise God, they would consider it fairly minor.
If we can sacrifice our time or our pride, though, maybe we aren’t quite as far away from the sacrificial lifestyle of Jesus as we thought. If we can sacrifice small things, like an hour or two for church services, or some money for an offering (or to support a good cause), maybe we can sacrifice a little more, and develop our skills.
Perhaps with practice, we could start to realize the joy of little sacrifices, and move on to trusting God with more and more of our choices, our possessions, and our time. (Yes, I appreciate that we should give everything over to Him all at once, but I’ve struggled to release many things all at once.) When we do so, what may look like sacrifices to other people start to become natural – and enjoyable – habits to us, and we are able to continue to make larger and larger sacrifices as God calls us, even as we receive greater opportunities to do so.
Let me close with one of my favorite passages on honoring God. I think that David’s statement speaks for itself.
“Take it, my Lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, and the threshing boards for wood to build a fire on the altar, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give it all to you.”
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the LORD. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!”
1 Chronicles 21:23-24 NLT
(P.S. – No, we did not buy the item with the $519 price tag shown in the image above. We needed a new lamp, and found one that cost much less from the same store.)
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.