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.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
2 Samuel 24:24
Over the years, I’ve found that two things are true about sacrificing things to God. One, the sacrifice must cost me something to be any sort of sacrifice. Two, God makes the cost seem like nothing once it has been made.
Cost is difficult for us to process in American society. We’re so wired to think of cost as the money associated with something that we completely forget that everything carries an opportunity cost. That economics principle has been lost on most Americans I’ve met, but it carries as much or more weight in my mind than monetary cost. I can always go out and earn more money — there’s always work that needs doing. But I can never make more time. I’m allotted the same amount as every other person has each day: 24 hours. So opportunity cost is, to me, actually the higher cost. If I give my time as a sacrifice to God, I have given something I can never recover. Sometimes the cost is a friendship. Sometimes the cost is people’s admiration. The cost varies. This morning time is a form of sacrifice. It doesn’t often feel like one, because I enjoy reading God’s word and spending time listening to Him. But this time every morning costs me that time. I could use that time in so many other ways, but I choose to use it reading God’s word and listening to Him. Which segues nicely into the second part of what I’ve learned about sacrifice.
God makes it seem like I’ve really given up nothing which is absolute truth from an eternal perspective. From my perspective, time is the single costliest thing I can offer God. It is the single resource I am guaranteed to never recover. But God substitutes His perspective on things when once I’ve decided to make the sacrifice. His perspective is that time means nothing. Does this mean that He doesn’t value my sacrifice? Far from it! He values my sacrifice for precisely what it is: me giving Him an unrecoverable resource. I can also sacrifice my self will and all manner of other things that God accepts with a smile, then replaces the lingering ache of having given something up with the knowledge that God replaced it with something far better. And that, I think, is what God was aiming at when He challenged Israel to try to out-give Him (Malachi, for reference). I give to God and God gives back in this loop that builds on itself. I give God my time and He somehow makes the time I have sufficient to every task that needs to be accomplished in that day. Sometimes, He even gives a little extra.
I wanted this reminder. This reminder that what I give to God must cost me something. I’ve recently been reluctant to give God whatever of my time and resources He asked and desperately needed to be reminded that sacrifice must have a cost or it is no sacrifice at all. Sometimes that cost is money. Often, for me, it is time and the things I would like to do —hobbies, personal projects, etc. Regardless of what the cost is measured in, sacrifice must have a cost.