Monday, June 05, 2006

sacrifice and sacrifice

A plague has come upon the land of Israel because of something King David did. A prophet tells him to make a burnt offering at a certain place. The landowner says he wants to give the land (and oxen for the burnt offering) to the king, but David insists on paying for it, saying
I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing
from 2 Samuel 24.24
Some years ago, I read this, probably out of context, and I misinterpreted it. I thought it was telling me to give up something when giving something to God. In other words, to give sacrificially.

I still think that's a good idea, but when I look at the passage again, I see it doesn't say that at all. It's actually a description of David's insistence that Araunah sell him the threshing-floor and the oxen, instead of giving him that stuff. Now since David was the king of Israel, the price of this piece of land, and of the oxen, wasn't something that would break the bank. It wasn't like David was giving up his dreams in order to make this burnt offering.

Anyway, a few years ago I got a letter from a mission agency, saying I had contributed thus and such a number of dollars to them over the years. I was shocked, and for a moment imagined what I could have done with that money instead (like pay off the mortgage on my house). But then I thought, how many people, when they're dying, say, "Gave too much away to missions; shoulda paid off the house" versus how many say, "Laying up treasure on earth was a fool's game; shoulda given more to the work of the Kingdom of God." Well, that gives you a pretty big clue about what my spiritual gift is.

Note to mission agencies: this is not an invitation to send more appeal letters. We already have plenty.

And yet, as I wrote the other day, there's a part of me that's really not all that interested in giving up stuff. By most measures, we've got plenty of money. But by other measures, i.e., by comparison with people that have more toys and/or live in houses nicer than ours, we don't have that much.

Isn't that silly? It makes me feel again like a friend of the world.
What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Paul the Apostle


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