What happens when we sacrifice our time and efforts for others? Does God really ask us to sacrifice our resources for him? Maybe. But maybe not.
Sacrifice on the Kitchen Counter
“See you, Mrs. Ojeda,” the last teenager mumbled as he walked out the door. I held back tears as I looked at the landscape of the kitchen. Mountains of pots, pans, and leftovers promised another hour of work. I trudged forward and tackled the mess, vowing to take a few minutes for myself when I finished.
The next morning, I scribbled furiously in my journal, pouring out my woes. Not one student had thanked me for preparing an elaborate meal for them. They ate it with gusto, but couldn’t find a word of appreciation? Why did I even make the effort? My litany continued. I sacrificed so much for my students. Time. Money. Taxi driving them to town or skiing. And what did I get in return? “See you, Mrs. Ojeda.”
I knew how to sacrifice my time and efforts for other people, but no one seemed to appreciate it. At all. The more I wrote, the more a verse I learned long ago niggled at the back of my mind. Some verse about sacrifice. Yeah, those Israelites really had the sacrifice thing down—but they got to haul animals and produce to the temple for their sacrifices.
Me? I seemed to sacrifice myself. I flipped through my Bible, sure I’d highlighted the verse at some point in my life. There, in 1 Samuel 15:
“Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.”1 Samuel 15:22 HCSB
Conviction flooded me. I had turned my busy life into a self-imposed sacrifice. I gave up my time and efforts, thinking I could please God by what I brought to the altar. Instead, I just ended up a grumpy, discontent, hot mess.
Here’s What God Really Wants
God doesn’t want my sacrifice, he wants my obedience. Nowhere in the Bible does God ask us to turn ourselves into a doormat with no goals and ambitions of our own. God doesn’t tell us to give up, he asks us to obey him.God doesn't want my sacrifice, he wants my obedience. #selfcare #goals Click To Tweet
As a God who brought order out of chaos, God wants us to obediently seek his will—not randomly sacrifice our time, money, and effort in an attempt to please him. Micah 6:8 sums up God’s will for our lives—to act in justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him.
God wants a partnership where we seek the things he seeks. He wants intentionality of action from me, not just random acts of sacrifice that wear me out and make me grumpy. God wants my best—both in attitude and effort.
Years have passed since that triggering moment of self-pity and despair. I still face mountains of pots and pans each time I entertain students. Sometimes, they thank me as they walk out the door. But it doesn’t matter. I have learned to set goals and priorities. My attitude has changed from feeling bitter about my unappreciated sacrifice to satisfaction in knowing that I have learned to obey.
God wants me to act in justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him. And if that means feeding kids or movie directors, I do it with love. It’s no sacrifice.