"I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing."
It was only recently that this verse came into my mind. I don't know if I read it somewhere, or if it just popped in. It's one of those weird things that just showed up floating around in my head.
And I cannot get it out.
You see, I have recognized a problem with the gifts I have been giving to God.
I have been giving Him free stuff.
Sometimes I wonder why I don't feel particularly good about my faith. I sit and wonder why I don't always seem to be growing and I question why things don't seem to be moving very well at times. I am convinced it is because I insist on giving God that which costs me nothing.
And that is not good enough.
King David realized this. He said so in that quote above. Here's the backstory:
David had done a census of the people, which God did not want him to do. It was a decision made out of a lack of faith. So God told him he could pick one of three things - a famine, being chased by his enemies, or a 3-day plague. David chose the plague, saying that unlike evil men, God is merciful.
So the plague came and went, and David went to make a sacrifice where he was told to do so. When he got there, the man who owned the place told him to take whatever he wanted. Everything he needed was being given to him by this man.
"I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God that which costs me nothing." (2 Samuel 24)
How often do our "gifts" to God come out of our convenience? And do they really count as gifts? If we only give that which is easy for us to give, that which costs us nothing, what does that say about how we view God and His great gifts to us?
Let's get more specific with some examples of people I have known over the years. I know a couple who have health problems. It is a struggle for them to be at the Sunday morning service. They often sleep through most of it and rarely go to any "extracurricular" activities. But they sacrifice to attend anything they can. It costs them a great deal of struggle just to be in the building on those Sunday mornings. A worthy sacrifice.
I know of another family who are healthy, happy, and generally helpful. However they tend to only attend services when it is convenient. Instead, if they are tired, or have sports or chores or anything else going on during that time, they almost invariably choose whatever it is that is not church. They give gifts of convenience.
Lest you think I am leaving myself out of this equation, I will tell you right now that I do both. There are many days where I have thought, "I've been doing ministry all day, I can take a break at night." However, my job is as a minister. Doing ministry during the day costs me nothing. In fact, I get paid to do it. My daytime ministry is no gift to God, but God's gift to me. It is those times when I give to God that which costs me my outside time and outside effort that is a gift to God. Not gifts of convenience, not that which costs me nothing, but a true, sacrificial effort.
So which do you do? Which will you do?
Be honest with yourself. I have found this to be one of the most difficult things to be honest with myself about. It is so much easier to say "look at this example, I've sacrificed before," and leave it at that. But what is the norm? What do you do the most? And can you become better? (hint: the answer is yes) :-)
When everything ends, when this world burns away, and when you meet Christ on the Judgement Day, what will matter? That you got that promotion by being a workaholic? That you made that special team in baseball? If you spent all your time in school so that you could make it into a certain college?
Or will it matter that you were fully God's? That you were totally and utterly sold out to Him. That you sacrificed whatever was needed at any given time in order to do His will.
I know what I want to matter to me the most, and it's a struggle. I will be working and moving to do whatever I can to improve my relationship with Him.
What will you do?