Paul has given us a very grave commandment for us to follow in Romans 12:1:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.
We have been commanded to offer up ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. We must all agree that this is much easier said than done. Many Christians today live their lives, believing that they are pleasing God, yet are not offering up themselves as a living and holy sacrifice. Let us examine the Scriptures to see how this is done.
Christ, Our Ultimate Example
We must always look to Christ as our example as a sacrifice, as Paul says eloquently in Philippians 2:5-11:
Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The awesomeness of this sacrifice is hard to take in: He counted the glory of Heaven as a loss, and emptied Himself for us on the cross! We must be of the same attitude. How can we, as mortal Christians, have the attitude of sacrifice as Christ did?
One of the easiest, yet most often overlooked, way in which Christians can provide sacrifice is by giving their time for spiritual things. Let us examine the daily life of many Christians. Let us say that we have an average individual, who works a 40 hour week, sleeps 8 hours a night, and spends about 10 hours a week eating. These three activities, basic to life, occupy 63% of one’s week! Let us say that this individual is a Christian who attends every worship service and Bible study, about 3 hours a week. Less than 2% of the week is spend in these activities. Let us say that our Christian here is good at studying his Bible, and spends about an hour daily reading. If this is his spiritual service, worship and Bible study, he is spending only about 6% of his week on his spiritual life. Is this acceptable? Is God pleased that even though His Son gave us 100% on the cross, His children will only give Him 6% of their time? What of the other 28%? How much of that time should we be able to sacrifice for God? For those who may not have any ideas, there are most probably older Christians around who could use encouragement with a visit (see James 1:27), holding a Bible study or a devotional with fellow Christians (or even those not within the fold), or even just trying to make sure that all the brethren in your area have their needs supplied. What will you say to God at the judgment if you have only given Him 3-6% of your time, and left so much work undone?
The generic term “resources” is good to use since God has given many various gifts to different members of the body so that it may function, as seen in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:
And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.
While not all of these gifts are present with the church today (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10), many of them are still here, and need to be exercised! Many will become discouraged because they feel that they have little worth because they do not teach or preach, yet Paul makes it clear that there is something that everyone can do. Perhaps you have received wisdom through study or experience that could assist another Christian. Maybe you have a giving heart, and can provide liberally for those who are in want. Even beyond all these things, merely being present with brethren and participating in an assembly or a Bible study provides edification for the brethren. Again, we must ask: what will you do at the Judgment if you have not used the gifts that God has given you, if you have refused to give a sacrifice of your resources?
Unfortunately, some Christians will limit sacrifice to the financial support of the work of the church in any discussion of Romans 12:1, which is not proper, for we can sacrifice in many different ways. This does not mean, however, that our financial support of the work of the congregation is not a part of the sacrifice that we are to give. It is our responsibility to give back a portion of our bountiful blessings from God back to Him as a gesture of thanks for all He has done. The reason for this, however, is often misunderstood and/or abused. Let us see why we are to give, and this may help us understand how and how much we are to give.
The whole world belongs to God; He does not really need our money. We are asked by Him to give of what He has given us to show our thankfulness and appreciation for His goodness, as seen in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:
But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work: as it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; His righteousness abideth for ever. And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God.
Therefore, we see that our giving is to be with a cheerful heart, for we are to want to give what we have as a sacrifice for all the wonderful things that God has done for us, especially the shedding of the blood of His Son so that we may have the forgiveness of our sins and fellowship with Him. Now, the question is, how much should we give to show our love for Him?
Many have attempted to quantify the amount that ought to be given, normally as a tithe (10%), using the standard given to Israel (Leviticus 27:30). This can be a good guideline, but it is not mandated in the New Testament. Jesus speaks about giving in Mark 12:41-44:
And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
Jesus’ words are evident. The rich individuals may have given the tithe, and they may have been justified by the Law, but the widow gave more to God in those two mites than the rich men did in all their gold because the widow made a sacrifice. She did not pay her bills and give a part of the rest for God, and saved some for recreation. She gave all that she had. She sacrificed herself by trusting wholly in God (Matthew 6:25-34), for she gave her living to Him. Do we have this much faith, to give all that we have to God and trust in His goodness?
God does not desire for His children to become destitute, but He does desire sacrifice. He desires that He comes first, and that the firstfruits shall be given to Him. Do we think of giving to God first or last? Do we take the best for ourselves and leave the rest for God? He condemned the Israelites for this very thing in Malachi 1:6-10. God gave for you His Son, hung on a cross, tortured and killed for our iniquity, so that you may have the forgiveness of your sins and fellowship with Him. With such a great sacrifice given for you, how hard shall it be for you to sacrifice for Him? He gave for you His best; what now shall you give to Him?