However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” (2Sa 24:24 NAS)
A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where I was one of the speakers. At the end of the meeting, an old friend came up and stood by my side as he extolled my wonderful character and devotion to mission work. As usual, he came to the issue of sacrifice. “Jeremy and his family have sacrificed all in order to serve the Lord as missionaries. They have set aside so many of their own wants in order to go where He sent them. Their sacrificial service is amazing, so let’s pray for them as they prepare to leave all this behind once again and return to the field.” They offered an amazing prayer for my family and I, and I was greatly touched.
I was also greatly troubled.
Sacrifice is something the Bible links to worship and service. Abraham stood ready to sacrifice his most prized asset in order to worship and obey. Mosaic law required a perfect sacrifice in worship. The Pharisees gave much but sacrificed little, and as such were rejected by Christ.
Sacrifice is also a notion that we frequently associate with missionaries and ministers, and rightly so. Pastors, church planters, and missionaries often give up myriad comforts in order to serve. Sometimes they forego financial security, or community roots, or creature comforts; they live in a way that some American church members might normally associate with a lower economic status.
Me? I’m not sure if I am still sacrificing anything.
When we first went to the field, we gave up a lot. We sold our car and our first home. We gave up mementos from grandparents and said goodbye to scores of friends. We relinquished our legally-established equal rights as deaf people, and went out into a world that viewed us as broken, uneducated, and requiring of a babysitter. No more jalapenos, Moon Pies, college football, Dr. Pepper, Ziploc baggies, crunchy peanut butter, interpreters, closed captioned television, or customer service. So, yeah, when we first went to the field, we did indeed sacrifice.
But what about now? Does my life show a pattern of sacrificial worship and service to my king? Am I offering to God something that costs me nothing?
Let me tell you about my life. I live in Ecuador most of the time, in a valley at 10,000 feet. A dormant volcano overlooks my home. We have no mosquitos and few roaches. Vegetables and fruit are dirt cheap: 4 avocados for a dollar, 90 pounds of potatoes for $16, strawberries and blackberries for a dollar a pound. Chicken, beef, fish, and pork are all fresh enough that at times only a few hours pass between death and sale. I live in an IMB-owned apartment (roughly 1,400 square feet) that is about .15 miles from a private international school that uses American curriculum and is accredited by U.S. agencies. Active volcanoes, natural hot springs, dormant volcanoes, cold-water rapids, Jim Elliot’s airstrip, trout-filled volcanic lakes, cloud forests, Cotopaxi National Park, monkey refuges, jungles, isolated campsites, butterfly houses, and Pacific beaches are all within 4 and a half hours. We work among the deaf, people similar in many ways to my wife and I. My kids are multi-lingual.
I’ve got a pretty good life.
We’ve grown accustomed to living without the grandparents. We have our own traditions during Thanksgiving and Christmas that have replaced in our hearts anything we used to do while stateside. We have emotionally let go of every single emotional connection to the sacrifices that once seemed so difficult way back when we first packed our bags.
When King David bought Araunah’s threshing floor, he made a one-time monetary sacrifice. I seriously doubt he looked back after six months and viewed the money spent as a continuing present tense sacrifice; I would imagine he saw it as a past tense sacrifice that did not extend to his present. Likewise, while we once, at a certain point in time, sacrificed much in order to serve Him, those are past tense sacrifices that do not continue to the present.
Where does our past-tense sacrifice leave us and our present-tense situation? This is a real question, folks; there’s no rhetorical query here. I really want an answer.
Am I still sacrificing? And if so, what? Am I called to make new sacrifices continually?