There’s an old joke about a pig and a chicken. A poor farmer came to the barnyard because he was low on food. He had one pig and one chicken left. “Who will put food on my table?” the farmer asked. “I will” said the chicken, and laid an egg. The pig didn’t answer. The chicken asked the pig why he wouldn’t contribute some ham. The pig replied, “For you it’s a contribution, but for me it’s a sacrifice.”
Like the people in Malachi’s day, we offer God what we have in abundance—or the leftovers—and never consider making a real sacrifice. But why should we make such a sacrifice that will cost us something of great value? Let’s consider what the scripture teaches.
First, we make sacrifices to show our love for God. The apostle Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to give sacrificially. He said in 2 Corinthians 8:8, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.” Their giving would prove the sincerity of their love for God. Either they really loved God, or they didn’t love God and only appeared to love God. Therefore, sacrificial giving is one way to show that we truly love God. Paul gives the example of the sacrifice of Christ in the next verse (9): “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” His sacrifice demonstrated His love for God (John 14:31).
Second, we make sacrifices to show our love for man. Certainly God showed His love for man when he gave His Son (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8-9). The apostle John recognized this when he wrote, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Presaging his own death, Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”(John 15:13). Certainly Jesus demonstrated His own love for His fellow man when he sacrificed His life. And in 1 John 4:11, John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Notice the little word “so” in this verse. It is an adverb of manner. The emphasis is upon how God loved us. That is the kind of love we should have for one another. Making sacrifices shows our love for one another.
Third, we make sacrifices to imitate God in Christ. Both God and Christ have shown sacrificial love for man, and as the exemplars of absolute truth and righteousness, we must follow their example. Paul said to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Peter told us to walk in the steps of Christ by making great sacrifices of suffering (1 Pet. 2:21). And, of course, Paul’s discussion of Christ’s sacrifice in Philippians 2:6-8 was preceded by the thought, “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). God and Christ are worthy of our imitation. In running our race, we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith (Heb. 12:1-2). The sacrifices that God and Christ made for the benefit of mankind are sacrifices worthy of imitation.
Truly we show our love for God and man by making sacrifices. The contrary is also true; those who refuse to make sacrifices demonstrate their lack of love for God and man. They also show their true character by failing to imitate God and Christ in their life. The result is the gradual promotion of self within their life, and the stain of selfishness soiling their words and deeds. The two greatest commands cannot be fulfilled without making sacrifice. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Putting God first, and our neighbor second, we cannot but be involved in making sacrifices. May God help us to realize the true nature of sacrifice and its relationship to loving God and our fellow man!