Tag Archives: sacrifice

Questions about Cheerful Giving

Cheerful Givers at the Walk For Justice 2006

Cheerful Givers at the Walk For Justice 2006 (Photo credit: Mykl Roventine)

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7

Today I read two quotes that got my head spinning. Maybe they will spin your heart and mind as well. The first is from C. S. Lewis and it is about giving to charity.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.” quotes at http://www.brethren.org/stewardship/documents/stewardship-quotes.pdf

The Kilns in Oxford, England

C. S. Lewis himself lived in a modest house in Oxford with his brother and gave half of his income away.  He often had house guests and cared for others  in sacrificial ways.  He walked what he taught.

The second quote from Richard Rohr seems to affirm that such financial stewardship can be a way of dying so that one can be reborn in Christ.

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. In terms of the ego, most religions teach in some way that all of us must die before we die, and then we will not be afraid of dying. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as whenever you are not in control.  Richard Rohr Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 25

Reflecting on both quotes, it made me wonder if giving can be seen as both a “painful” moment as one gives beyond one’s self (a kind of dying) as well as joyful experience where one experiences new life in Christ? Do I place too much emphasis on joyful giving when in reality Christian giving always has elements of sacrificial pain?

What do you think?

Lord Jesus, you gave your whole self for us. May we give back sacrificially to you.

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Commanding Sacrifice

The Old Testament disturbs many readers with its many violent and destructive stories, at times commanded by God. One story in Abraham’s life has challenged many readers. God commands Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac, to a mountain and to offer him as a burnt offering to God (Genesis 22:2). Abraham faithfully follows the instructions and takes Isaac, a knife and wood for the offering. In a very poignant scene, as Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood, he calls out,

“Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:7-9)

I wonder what Abraham was thinking as they walked together. Isaac was his only son, the long-awaited promise from God. Clearly Abraham loved and cherished his son. Yet he faithfully followed God’s command. Perhaps he had half-expected it since many of the surrounding gods in ancient Palestine required such a sacrifice of the first-born child. Still I think Abraham’s steps were as heavy as his heart as together they walked up the hill. And then, when he actually bound Isaac, laid him on the wood, and raised the knife to kill him, I simply go numb.

Before we become too critical of the violence in this ancient story, let us not forget the violence in our own culture. In the last century, humanity has turned death into an industrial machine, killing people by the millions. Last week a family home in Oakdale erupted in murder and suicide. Violence is not simply an ancient problem.

And we read this story, knowing it is a test from God (Genesis 22:1). God had to see if Abraham would be faithful in trusting God. As Abraham raised the knife, God again spoke,

“Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:12-13)

Trusting God can be very difficult at times. Yet God proves to be faithful to Abraham, Isaac and to all humanity.

One last thought: Christians often think the mountain where Abraham “sacrificed” Isaac was the same mountain where 1600 years later Jesus, God’s son, died for us.

Lord Jesus, thank you for absorbing our human violence and sin on the cross.

 

Salt of the Earth?

A Mountain of Salt

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses it taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13).  Such a metaphor raises all kinds of questions for me.  Salt seems so ordinary and mundane, something we take for granted.   Yes, it is necessary for making a fine meal, but it is the exotic spices and herbs that get the attention.  Salt brings out other  flavors, but who wants a dish with too much salt?

Years ago, on April 1st, my older sister pulled a practical joke on my siblings by mixing a large quantity of salt into the sugar bowl.  At breakfast, as they spooned sugar on to their cereal, she watched us carefully, saying nothing.  When they took their first bite and then spit it all out, she burst out laughing.   But my mother was not too pleased with the wasted cereal. My sister had to clean up the mess from too much salt. 

When Jesus spoke, salt was used in Jerusalem for temple sacrifices, “You shall not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13).  Could Jesus be inferring that our lives are to be an offering to God, a gift for God to use?  Could we be part of God’s covenant to renew and restore the earth?  Do I enhance God’s flavor in the world?

And just how does salt lose its saltiness?   Perhaps it means that the salt is polluted with impurities and stray matter.   In Exodus 30:35 God instructs the Israelites to make a prayer incense that includes salt, “seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”  I know that my own life at times becomes polluted in ways not pleasing to God.  How will I know when I have lost my saltiness?  Does the community have a role in helping me stay salty?

Jesus’ last phrase about salt being trample under foot makes me smile. In Minnesota there is plenty of salt being spread on roads, bridges, and sidewalks for us to trample upon.   Jesus did not concern his audience with the ice-melting properties of salt, but it is a critical part of our culture. Road salt covers my car after yesterday’s snowstorm, yet I am thankful for its ability to clear road ice. 

What thoughts comes to your mind when Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth“?