Lent has been over for a few weeks now, but I still find myself thinking about sacrifice. This was a process that started well over a year ago, actually. Lent was (and still is) a new concept to me, so I’d been asking myself what was the best way to get the most out of this ancient Christian tradition. If you’re not familiar with Lent, it’s the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter, during which Christians are encouraged to fast from something in preparation of celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
When Lent rolled around last year, I decided to hop up on a high horse and say that giving up things like coffee, chocolate, or Facebook was a spiritually useless pursuit. It didn’t make sense to me. This year, I read an article talking about how sacrifice isn’t supposed to make sense. And, suddenly, giving up these seemingly trivial things made sense. So I found I’d completely reversed my position. It was frustrating.
Ever since then, I’ve been asking myself why God even asks us to sacrifice in the first place. Why does God ask us to give him anything? It’s not like he needs it. Even if all the dessert I go without eating during Lent finds its way up to Heaven, let’s remember it’s going to the guy who made humanity out of a fistful of dirt. I think he could whip up some chocolate cake if he really wanted to.
No matter what we come up with to sacrifice, it’s a safe bet that God doesn’t need it. This tells me that God asks us to sacrifice not for his sake, but for our own.
That’s right, sacrifice is a selfish pursuit.
This Lent, I gave up Twitter. One-year-ago me would have been ashamed at the fast’s lack of spiritual significance, but it taught me a lot about myself. Twitter had occupied a very large space in my life, and as Lent went on, I was eventually able to notice a pattern. I started filling the hole it left with something, and, sadly, it wasn’t Jesus. It was Facebook. The fast didn’t instantly bring me closer to Christ, but it did show me that I had to work out some issues with my desire to be heard and affirmed.
While I was still chewing on this idea that sacrifice can teach us about ourselves, I came across a passage in I Kings. It told the story of Elijah meeting a starving widow. This lady tells him that she’s down to the last of her food supplies. She says she’s going to make a cake of bread from these supplies, share it with her son, and then die. So Elijah, being the compassionate man that he is, tells her, “Okay, you do that. But first give me some bread.” The woman obeys and is blessed with an infinite supply of flour and oil.
I read this and started thinking that maybe another reason God calls us to sacrifice is so he can teach us about himself. He asks us to give him our last piece of bread – or whatever that thing in our life is that we think we can’t afford to give up – so that he can show us what an amazing provider he is.
What do you think? Why does God ask us to sacrifice?
(By the way, we had a whole discussion about God providing in the wake of sacrifice on Jesus Freaks recently. Feel free to check it out!)